IDAHO Ready | Winter Safety Campaign
Stay safe with tools and information to drive safe during the winter months.
• VIDEO: Winter-time Vehicle Maintenance
• VIDEO: 511 Traveler Services Platform
• VIDEO: Safety around Snow Plows
• For the Winter Road Report go to: 511.idaho.gov
Select from topics below to learn more about winter driving and the Idaho Transportation Department’s efforts to keep Idaho’s highway system safe and clear during the snow season.
How does the Idaho Transportation Department keep highways clear in the winter?
ITD monitors the weather to determine when to use which applications on our roads to keep them safe. ITD uses anti-icing applications such as liquid salt brine and magnesium chloride before the storm hits to prevent ice from forming. During the storm, ITD plows the roads and applies de-icing solutions such as solid salt to burn through the snow on the road.
ITD is a global leader in using the most current data to drive decision making for winter operations. More than a dozen other countries have contacted ITD about our process.
To minimize effects to vehicles and the environment, ITD uses the least amount of salt to keep the roads safe.
Why do we use salt in winter road maintenance?
Salt is very effective in keeping our roads clear and safe.
ITD has used a salt and sand mixture in winter-maintenance efforts since the 1960s. ITD uses in excess of 100 million lbs. of salt and salt brine each winter to clear 12,200 lane miles of highway – more material depending on the severity of the winter.
Using salt increases the effectiveness of the sanding material by adding a snow- and ice-melting agent to improve traction. Additionally, it keeps stockpiles of sand from freezing solid.
Over the years, some regions began using liquid salt solutions of magnesium chloride as a de-icer on the roadways. Others switched to a salt brine solution to increase efficiency and lower costs in areas where it could be effective. Salt continues to be a key component to these efforts.
Because of the use of salt, there has been significant decreases in winter road incidents in winter months. In fact, the only months that have shown a recent decline in fatalities and serious injury crashes have been December-February, when salt use on our highways is heaviest.
A result of using salts to maximize safety on the highways is vehicle corrosion, particularly the undercarriage. It has been a problem for many decades, with various solutions suggested.
ITD uses sodium chloride salt, which is corrosive to iron and steel but has less impact on aluminum and copper. Auto manufacturers regularly apply protective coatings, so corrosion is reduced on modern vehicles. Transportation agencies also have experimented with buffering agents added into the salt.
Application rates for straight salt are considerably less than for sanding material. ITD has learned that one truckload of straight salt would treat the same length of roadway as six truckloads of the salt/sand mixture. In other words, the same amount of salt was used in both applications, but we were using a lot less sanding material.
For liquid applications, the amount placed on the roadway varies with the purpose of the application. For anti-icing applications, liquids are applied just before the storm. For solid applications, ITD applies salt behind the snowplow to help melt the remaining snow and ice.
The best method to minimize corrosion available today is the careful use of salt. The application rates used by ITD are far below that commonly used in the Mid-Western States. At ITD, we take advantage of lessons learned, and have found that we can be very effective with far less material. In some of the areas of the state, such as northern Idaho, the weather is more temperate, with heavy, wet snow that works the best with the salt program.
Washing vehicles frequently will also help minimize corrosion.
Salt keeps our roads safe, but it can build up on our vehicles, especially the undercarriage, and may cause damage to the underside of cars. It is important to prevent buildup by washing your car often during the winter months, preferably every week. If you go to a car wash, select an option that cleans the underside of your car. If you go to a carwash that only has wands, try to pay special attention to the wheels.
Salt for Safety
Remember, ITD uses salt on the road to keep them as safe and clear as possible, and only uses as much salt as necessary to do the job. Please remember to clean your vehicle during the winter months, and call 5-1-1 or visit 511.Idaho.gov for the latest conditions on Idaho highways.
Most of us can’t put our lives on hold when it snows. That’s why the Idaho Transportation Department strives to make winter travel as safe as possible on state highways. Although many drivers have watched snowplows clear the roads, there are some important facts you should know about snow removal.
How does ITD prepare for the snow and ice season?
During the year, more than 400 ITD operations personnel prepare for the snow season by stockpiling necessary supplies. In the fall, the same trucks that have been used during the summer for stockpiling, patching and other maintenance operations are equipped with snowplows. Employees also receive training to operate new equipment.
How does ITD decide which roads to clear first?
ITD considers these factors for clearing roads in the state highway system:
- Traffic volumes
- Accident reduction
- Number of steep grades, sharp curves, intersections, ramps or potentially hazardous areas
- Availability of manpower and equipment resources
ITD applies liquid anti-icers to roads in many areas before a storm arrives. Once the anti-icing work is completed, ITD responds to winter storms as they occur and attempts to clear all roads as the snow begins to fall. However, in situations where a storm covers a large area, resources can be stretched beyond available limits. In these situations a system of priorities is followed to provide the best service.
Interstates and state highways that have the highest volume of traffic are cleared first. Workers continue to clear roads with top priority placed on the most-traveled roads down to areas with lower volumes of traffic.
Some routes, because of concerns for public safety, high difficulty and cost of winter maintenance, may be closed for short durations until manpower and equipment resources are available for snow removal.
The winter maintenance priorities on the state highway system are approved by the Idaho Transportation Board.
How can drivers help when the roads are being cleared?
Use caution when driving in winter conditions, and cooperate with the highway workers that clear the roadways. Here are some additional safety tips:
- Remain two car lengths behind snowplow trucks for every 10 mph you drive. Sand being spread by trucks can damage your vehicle.
- Do not pass a snowplow unless it is absolutely necessary. If you must pass, do so only when you can clearly see the road ahead. Do not pass on the side where the plow is spraying snow. If you do, the snow’s force can knock your car out of control.
- Do not cut back immediately in front of a snowplow truck. The plow blades are often covered with snow and can be difficult to see.
- Do not brake suddenly if you are traveling in front of a snowplow. The heavy vehicle cannot stop as quickly as an automobile.
- Do not abandon your car unless it is absolutely necessary. However, if you must, leave it as far off the road as possible. Abandoned cars can interfere with the road clearing process and can be extremely hazardous to snow removal equipment and the operators if they are hidden or buried by snow.
- Be aware of potential icy areas such as shady spots, bridges and overpasses. Since they are exposed on their undersides, bridges and overpasses are deprived of ground warmth and freeze more rapidly than the roadways leading to them.
- Before you begin your trip, make sure your car’s windows, mirrors and lights are clear of snow. Keep your windshield washers filled with a non-freezing solution all winter.
- Keep an emergency winter driving kit in your car. The kit should include: flashlights with extra batteries, a first aid kit with a pocket knife, at least one blanket, an extra set of mittens, socks and a wool cap, a small sack of sand or cat litter for generating traction under the wheels, a small shovel, bottled water, booster cables, canned fruit, nuts and a non-electric can opener.
- Travel Smart. Travel Safe. Get updates on winter road and weather conditions, emergency closures and access to tourist information 24-hours-a-day by visiting 511.idaho.gov or dialing 511. If your phone company does not support 511, simply call 888-IDA-ROAD (888-432-7623) to access the 511 system.
What should be done if a medical emergency occurs in an area where the roads have not been cleared?
In case of medical emergencies in areas where roads have not been plowed, the local or state police should be called. These agencies will work with search and rescue personnel and ITD to respond to emergencies.
Winter Driving Checklist
For Idaho motorists, winter driving is a necessity. Drivers can help ensure safer travel by preparing themselves and their vehicles for the cooler months ahead.
Even the most cautious driver should carry some essential items in the car in case of an emergency. Use a plastic crate or a large, heavy canvas bag to store the following items in the trunk of your car:
- Flashlights with extra batteries
- First aid kit with a pocket knife
- At least one blanket
- Extra set of mittens, socks and a wool cap
- Small sack of sand or cat litter for generating traction under the wheels
- A small shovel
- Bottled water
- Jumper cables
- Window washer solvent
- Ice scraper with brush
- Cloth or roll of paper towels
- Warning devices (flares or triangles)
- Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)
- Mobile phone and car charger pre-programmed with rescue apps and important phone numbers including family and emergency services
- Non-perishable snacks for both human and pet passengers
- Canned fruit, nuts and a non-electric can opener
Winter Car Care Checklist
A winter car kit helps ensure a driver’s safety, but vehicles also need attention at the start of the winter season. The American Automobile Association (AAA) advises drivers prepare their vehicles for the winter season:
- Battery and Charging System – Have the battery and charging system tested by a trained technician. A fully charged battery in good condition is required to start an engine in cold weather.
- Battery Cables and Terminals – Make sure the battery terminals and cable ends are free from corrosion, and the connections are tight.
- Drive Belts – Inspect the underside of accessory drive belts for cracks or fraying. Many newer multi-rib “serpentine” belts are made of materials that do not show obvious signs of wear; replace these belts at 60,000-mile intervals.
- Engine Hoses – Inspect cooling system hoses for leaks, cracks or loose clamps. Also, squeeze the hoses and replace any that are brittle or excessively spongy feeling.
- Tire Type and Tread – In areas with heavy winter weather, installing snow tires on all four wheels will provide the best winter traction. All-season tires work well in light to moderate snow conditions, provided they have adequate tread depth. Replace any tire that has less than 3/32-inches of tread. Uneven tire wear can indicate misalignment, or wheel balance/suspension problems that must be addressed to prevent further tire damage.
- Tire Pressure – Check tire inflation pressure more frequently in fall and winter. As the average temperature drops, so will tire pressures – typically by 1 PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The proper tire pressure levels can be in the owner’s manual or on a sticker typically located on the driver’s side door jamb. Also, check the spare.
- Air Filter – Check the engine air filter by holding it up to a 60-watt light bulb. If light can be seen through much of the filter, it is still clean enough to work effectively. However, if light is blocked by most of the filter, replace it.
- Coolant Levels – Check the coolant level in the overflow tank when the engine is cold. If the level is low, add a 50/50 solution of coolant and water to maintain the necessary antifreeze capability. Test the antifreeze protection level with an inexpensive tester available at any auto parts store.
- Lights – Check the operation of all headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers, and back-up lights. Replace any burnt out bulbs.
- Wiper Blades – The blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace any blade that leaves streaks or misses spots. In areas with snow, consider installing winter wiper blades that wrap the blade frame in a rubber boot to reduce ice and snow buildup that can prevent good contact between the blade and the glass.
- Washer Fluid – Fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir with a winter cleaning solution that has antifreeze components to prevent freezing.
- Brakes – If there is any indication of a brake problem, have the system inspected by a certified technician to ensure all components are in good working order.
- Transmission, Brake and Power Steering Fluids – Check all fluids to ensure they are at or above the minimum safe levels.
Facts about Anti-Icing
Why do workers spray liquid onto the roadways before a big storm arrives? If you live in Idaho, you’ve probably asked yourself that question. It may seem dangerous to add liquid to a road that might freeze, but that liquid can be your best friend when winter driving conditions are at their worst. That liquid can prevent snow from sticking to the road and prevent frost or black ice. It’s one of the newest weapons against icy roads. Thanks to anti-icing, winter driving can be a safer experience. The following commonly-asked questions and answers will help you learn more about liquid anti-icing and the benefits it can offer motorists.
What is Anti-Icing?
Liquid anti-icers work like anti-freeze by lowering the freezing temperature of water and preventing ice from forming a strong bond to the road. They help keep roads from becoming slick, improve safety and reduce accidents.
Is it safe?
Anti-icing liquids are less toxic than baking soda or salt. Unlike sand, it won’t crack your windshield or chip your car’s paint. Tests have shown that the proper application of anti-icing liquids produces no negative effects on ground water, surface water or vegetation.
What can I do if I drive on roads where Anti-Icing liquids are used?
Wash your car on a regular basis. Anti-icing liquids (along with slush and dirt from the roads) can splash onto your car and build up after time, leaving a filmy residue on your car. Make car washing part of your regular maintenance routine, and you’ll help keep residue from the winter roads off of your car.
Why not use sand?
In many cases anti-icing liquids work better than sand. They keep snow from firmly sticking to the pavement. Anti-Icing liquids also last longer than sand and work in a broader range of conditions. Sand can be crushed by traffic and produce airborne dust, which contributes to pollution. Because sand is easily blown off the road by traffic, it requires repeated applications.
How are Anti-Icing liquids used?
Anti-icing: A light application of the liquid is made to a road before a storm to prevent a hard bond of ice, reduce snow buildup and speed snow and ice breakup after the storm.
De-icing: The liquid is applied to remove a thin layer of snowpack or ice already on the road. It can be very effective for melting black ice and freezing rain.
Pre-wetting: Wetting traditional sanding material with anti-Icing causes sand to stick to snowpack better. Keeping sand on the road is nearly impossible in some circumstances, especially in very cold weather and in cases where there’s traffic at highway speeds. Anti-Icing liquids can keep the sand from blowing to the shoulder of the road.
What about cost?
Anti-icing liquids are usually the most cost-effective alternative when considering the whole picture. There are less expensive chemicals to use for snow and ice control, such as salt and other ice melting chemicals. But those alternatives can be harmful to vehicles, bridges and the environment.
Anti-icing liquids are a good alternative because they are less corrosive and work better than other chemicals. They reduce environmental impact, bridge corrosion and vehicle damage.
In the last few years Idaho has worked with Montana, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and British Columbia to develop higher standards for a winter maintenance chemicals. The goal among the six transportation regions is to use a winter maintenance chemical that is appropriate for our environment and less corrosive than other alternatives.
For more information, contact Steve Spoor, Maintenance Services Coordinator, at 334-8413.
Studded snow tires are legal in Idaho from Oct. 1 to April 30
Snowstorms may not be part of the immediate weather forecast, but Oct. 1 marks the date for legal use of studded snow tires in Idaho.
While it may be legal to use the tires, officials advise against it unless conditions warrant. Studded tires are snow tires with small metal cleats embedded in the tread, and may cause undue wear on bare roadways. Idaho’s studded snow tire season continues through April 30.
Studded tire laws vary in neighboring states:
- Montana: Oct. 1 – May 31
- Nevada: Oct. 1 – April 30
- Utah: Oct. 15 – April 15
- Oregon: Nov. 1 – March 31
- Washington: Nov. 1 – March 31
- Wyoming: Legal all year
For weekly updates on highway construction projects in Idaho, call the Idaho Road Report at 511 or 1-888-IDA-ROAD (432-7623). For online updates, visit the transportation department’s road report at 511.idaho.gov.
Daily reports on winter road conditions are provided from November through April.
District 3: Southwest Idaho
Counties: Ada, Adams, Boise, Canyon, Elmore,
Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Washington, Valley
8150 Chinden Blvd.
P.O. Box 8028
Boise, Idaho 83714-8028
District 6: East Idaho
Counties: Bonneville, Butte, Clark, Custer,
Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Teton, Madison
Idaho Safety Rest Areas offers the traveler a break from driving to stop and stretch, walk the dog, and let the kids run off pent up energy. After a refreshing break from your driving route, you will be more alert and able to resume your travels.
Facilities vary from site to site but all Idaho rest areas offer tables (with or without) shelters, trash receptacles, drinking fountains, telephones, trees and shade, and travel information boards, in addition to restrooms. Some of the larger facilities offer walking and paved biking trails, larger parking areas for recreation vehicles and semi-trucks, and Visitor Information Centers.
Safety Rest areas are designed for temporary use and do not offer services for extended periods of stay or over night camping. If you need a place to rest over night and wish to camp, please feel free to enjoy any of the camping facilities and public campgrounds in Idaho’s State Parks and National Forests.
For more information about Idaho (including complete lodging and campground listings), obtain a copy of the Idaho Travel Guide from the Department of Commerce or visit the following websites:
- U.S. Forest Service
- Recreational Opportunities on Idaho Federal Lands
- Idaho State Parks & Recreation Department – Lodging/Camping
- Idaho Department of Commerce – Places to Stay
Idaho rest areas are a stopping place for your relaxation and comfort. Please help us keep them pleasant by using them as they are intended and by being considerate of others.
ITD is committed to doing all we can to provide a safe driving experience on all state highways. In fact, highway safety is a prime consideration along the highway corridor, from design through construction and then with every maintenance effort. Still, the key to preventing accidents, injuries and fatalities is individual driver awareness. Remember to always wear your seatbelt and never mix driving with alcohol or drug use. If you become sleepy or fatigued, stop and rest. That is one prime reason for ITD’s rest areas.
For additional information contact Cathy Ford, Roadside Programs Coordinator, at (208) 334-8416.
The Rest Area Activities Program allows nonprofit groups to dispense free refreshments to the motoring public for the purpose of providing a period of relaxation and improving the highway safety.
If you or your organization would like to participate in this program please view our Rest Area Activities Program Packet. For additional Operation Wildflower forms or to apply online please visit the ITD Maintenance Downloads page.
For additional information contact Robin Karsann, D1 Adopt-A-Highway & Volunteer Services Coordinator, at (208) 772-8011
Idaho is a beautiful state and many citizens volunteer their time to maintain Idaho’s roadways. There are many ways to volunteer; litter pickup, wildflower planting, graffiti removal, landscape planting and maintenance, yard and building maintenance, and dispensing refreshments to the motoring public at rest areas.
Volunteer Services Program
The Idaho Transportation Department’s (ITD) Volunteer Services Program allows individuals or groups to volunteer in ITD-approved activities in addition to the Adopt-A-Highway Program. The activities may include graffiti removal, landscape planting and maintenance, yard and building maintenance, wildlife fence maintenance or suggest your ideas on how you might like to volunteer.
If you would like to participate in this program please view our Volunteer Services Program Information Packet (pdf). For additional Volunteer Services forms please visit the Documents and Forms tab above.
ITD’s Adopt-A-Highway Program provides individuals and groups the opportunity to support ITD’s anti-litter commitment by adopting sections of highway right-of-way for the purpose of controlling litter at least twice a year.
To view sections of roadway available for adoption please select a region below:
- North Idaho – D1
- North-Central Idaho – D2
- Southwest Idaho – D3
- South-Central Idaho – D4
- Southeast Idaho – D5
- East Idaho – D6
NOTE: Although we make every effort to provide accurate road segment availability, availability changes as applications are approved throughout the week.
If you or your organization would like to participate in Adopt a Highway please view the Adopt-A-Highway Information/Application Packet. For additional Adopt-A-Highway forms or to apply online please visit the Documents/Forms tab above.
Through the Operation Wildflower Program, individuals and groups have the opportunity to volunteer in ITD-approved wildflower planting on certain approved highway sections.
If you or your organization would like to participate in this program please view our Operation Wildflower Program Packet. For additional Operation Wildflower forms please visit the Documents/Forms tab above.
The Rest Area Activities Program allows nonprofit groups to dispense free refreshments to the motoring public for the purpose of providing a period of relaxation and improving highway safety.
District 3: Southwest Idaho
208-334-8350; FAX: 208-334-8917
P.O. Box 8028
Boise, Idaho 83707-2028
District 6: East Idaho
P.O. Box 97
Rigby, Idaho 83205-0097
District 1: North Idaho
Counties: Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai, Shoshone
District 2: North-Central Idaho
Counties: Clearwater, Idaho, Latah, Lewis, Nez Perce
District 3: Southwest Idaho
Counties: Ada, Adams, Boise, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Washington, Valley
District 4: South-Central Idaho
Counties: Blaine, Camas, Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka, Twin Falls
District 5: Southeast Idaho
Counties: Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Caribou, Franklin, Oneida, Power
District 6: East Idaho
Counties: Bonneville, Butte, Clark, Custer, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Teton, Madison
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can participate in ITD Volunteer Programs?
- Members or employees of civic or non-profit organizations and commercial or private enterprises.
How do I become a volunteer?
- The volunteer group contact person must submit an Program Application to the Volunteer Services Coordinator. For more information, see Volunteer Contacts at ITD.
What cannot be done when volunteering?
- The volunteer groups will not be allowed to dispense organizational, political, or any other type of literature, with the exception of tourist information such as city, county, or state road maps, cafe and hotel accommodations.
Are there safety guidelines that need to be followed?
- Yes, participants are required to follow ITD Safety Tips, and the Traffic Control Plan and Guidelines for Litter Pickup.
What is Adopt-A-Highway?
- Adopt-A-Highway emphasizes anti-litter education and utilizes volunteer groups to control litter on their adopted section of state highway right-of-way.
How long does my agreement last?
- Volunteer groups are required to adopt a section for two years. If you are interested in volunteering for a shorter duration, please go to “Volunteer Contacts at ITD” to find the district contact for more information.
Can I adopt a particular stretch of highway?
- Yes, if the stretch of highway is available. If your desired section is unavailable an alternate section of state highway may be adopted.
How long is the stretch of highway?
- Volunteer groups are required to adopt a section of roadway that is 2 miles long, when possible. Shorter sections may be adopted when conditions prohibit adopting 2 miles.
How often should litter be picked up?
- Litter should be picked up a minimum of two times a year, or more frequently as needed. Volunteer Groups will need to complete a Cleanup Report Card for each pickup and send the card to ITD’s Volunteer Services Coordinator.
Who supplies the litter bags and picks up the filled bags?
- ITD will provide safety vests, trashbags, traffic control signs, and safety literature for the use of Volunteer Groups. To the extent possible, ITD will remove the filled trashbags from the roadsides the first ITD workday following the volunteer group’s pickup.
How do I get bags and vests?
- The Volunteer Group can obtain required supplies and materials from ITD during regular business hours. Supplies may be obtained by the Volunteer Group by completing a Adopt-A-Highway Equipment Request Form.
What is Operation Wildflower?
- Through the Operation Wildflower Program, Adopt-A-Highway volunteer groups have the opportunity to participate in ITD-approved wildflower planting on their adopted sections.
What type of wildflowers may be planted?
- Only ITD furnished seed will be allowed for planting.
How can I receive wildflower seeds?
- Wildflower seeds can be obtained from your district volunteer coordinator.
What is Rest Area Safety Break?
- The Rest Area Activities Program allows nonprofit groups to dispense free refreshments to the motoring public for the purpose of providing a period of relaxation and improving highway safety.
What is Volunteer Services?
- Through the Volunteer Services Program, volunteer groups or individuals have the opportunity to participate in ITD-approved activities that are not associated with the Adopt-A-highway Program or Operation Wildflower. Some of the activates include litter pickup, wildflower planting and maintenance, graffiti removal, landscape planting and maintenance, state highway right-of-way beatification, and yard/building maintenance.
Documents and Forms
The forms, manuals and references are made available on the internet by the Idaho Transportation Department as a public service. These internet files may not be used for commercial purposes, nor may the references be published or repackaged for commercial sale.
- Adopt-A-Highway Information Packet
- Adopt-A-Highway Application
- Adopt-A-Highway Agreement Terms and Conditions
- Adopt-A-Highway/Volunteer Services Release
- Adopt-A-Highway/Volunteer Services Under Age 18 Release
- Adopt-A-Highway Equipment Request
- Please note: This form is to be completed when you are actually picking up the equipment. This form is not to reserve equipment in advance.
- Safety Information
- Operation Wildflower Application
- Volunteer Services Application
- Volunteer Services Agreement Terms and Conditions
- Volunteer Services Release
- Volunteer Services Under Age 18 Release
- Volunteer Group Information & District Contacts
Spring Load Limits
Every spring, ITD imposes spring breakup load limits to protect our highways. This practice minimizes damage to these roads from heavier vehicle loads using these routes during the freeze-thaw cycle. Spring breakup load limits are fairly common in areas with the most severe winter weather — northern and eastern Idaho.
Typically, larger commercial vehicles are limited to a lower speed and axle weight.
When subjected to high speeds and heavy loads, soft spots begin to wear, eventually breaking up and creating potholes.
Motorists are urged to be patient when traveling on highways where limitations have been placed.
There’s nothing like a car-sized boulder resting in the middle of a highway to wreak havoc with your highway travels. Driving has its share of inherent risks, but ITD wants to do everything possible to narrow down the list of hazards.
Every year, the potential exists for rockfall. If there’s moisture in the air, chances are pretty good there will eventually be rocks that tumble down to the road below. This is because when hillside soils get saturated by that moisture, they start to give way and can no longer hold back the rocks embedded in those soils.
Precipitation in the form of snow, rain or even fog with a high moisture content increase the chances of a slide.
Not everyone will be like the massive landslide near Elk City in 2016, but it is a stark reminder of the dangers posed this time of year.
These events demonstrate an increased likelihood of rocks and debris releasing from hillsides each spring, especially for highways bordered closely by steep hillsides or mountains.
“Many of Idaho’s highways cut through forests and along steep slopes,” said ITD Emergency Program Supervisor Neal Murphy. “In the spring, when soils are saturated, the risk of falling debris is significantly higher. That is especially true in forests that have experienced recent fire or in mountainous terrain that is vulnerable to avalanches.”
The Idaho Transportation Department reminds drivers to plan ahead and check the 5-1-1 traveler advisory system (via phone or web) before heading out, especially to the mountains.
In the event of a slide or rocks on the road, drivers are asked pull onto the shoulder, turn emergency flashers on, and call local law enforcement, the local ITD office or nearest maintenance facility with a location description or milepost. Remain in the vehicle until help arrives.
The landslide west of Elk City carried about 235,000 cubic yards of material – 47 million lbs. – down to the highway. The biggest boulder near Smiths Ferry was estimated at 29 tons. While those are staggering numbers, even much smaller debris could derail a motorcyclist or bicyclist.
A recent spring was highlighted by a 50-ton boulder coming down the hill on Warm Springs in Boise, a rockslide on Idaho Highway 97 in northern Idaho that carried an estimated 450 tons of debris, a huge boulder on Idaho Highway 55 at Smiths Ferry (above photo), and this massive boulder in eastern Idaho.
Spring snow conditions can be deceptive. While the air may feel warmer and thoughts turn to spring, often conditions are ripe for a springtime slide.
Our ITD avalanche forecasting crew remains busy into the spring, monitoring avalanche conditions. Even in years with less snowpack, warmer weather creates higher avalanche danger. It can be a time of high volatility from loose, wet snow. Spring can also hold avalanche hazards not encountered during the colder parts of winter. Snowpack and weather transitioning into a warmer and wetter spring pattern can result in snow instability.
Due to this risk, our avalanche crew continues to actively monitor snow pack and evaluate weather conditions outside of the traditional winter months. Their assessment guides decisions related to keeping motorists and our road crews safe.
ITD encourages anyone that lives, works or travels through our state’s avalanche zones to visit 511.idaho.gov before you head out. It provides updated traveler conditions, information on potential closures or other hazards.
Noxious weeds are spreading at an alarming rate across the Western United States. Each year approximately $23 billion is lost nationwide due to invasive plant impacts to agriculture, industry, recreation, and the environment. In addition, invasive plants are invading about 4,600 acres of land daily with over 8 million acres of Idaho lands severely infested by one of the 35 state-designated noxious weeds.
ITD Integrated Vegetative Management (IVM) program applies specific guidelines and complies with federal, state and local noxious weed laws to effectively eliminate, control and manage the spread of noxious weeds.
ITD is currently using environmentally beneficial landscaping which includes utilizing techniques that compliment and enhance the local environment and seek to minimize the adverse effects that landscaping has on it. It also provides a framework for preventing the introduction of and controlling the spread of invasive plant species on highway rights-of-way.
Some of these techniques and equipment include selective herbicide applications, brush control or removal, promoting native or adaptable vegetation, reseeding disturbed areas, bio-control agents and delivery systems, more efficient equipment cleaners, improved seeding equipment (for steep slopes), Global Positioning System (GPS) for invasive population inventories, and methods to minimize soil disturbance during vegetation management activities.
- State of Idaho’s Noxious Weed Program
- Idaho’s Noxious Weed Rules (pdf)
- Idaho Weed Awareness
- Idaho’s Biological Control Program
- Federal Highway Administration Invasive Species
- Idaho, Invasives, and More
- Transporting a Boat
- Idaho’s Invasive Species Strategic Plan 2012-2016
For additional information, contact Cathy Ford, Roadside Programs Coordinator, at (208) 334-8416.
Wildflowers and other native plants provide visual character that enhances the natural scenic beauty of our state’s landscape. The growing concern for our natural heritage has generated an increasing interest in their restoration, preservation, and appreciation.
Our highways provide access to the splendors of nature as well as offer opportunities for natural beauty within their rights-of-way. The “Operation Wildflower” program and the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987 (STURAA) initiated the use of native wildflowers and other native vegetation along the rights-of-way to add natural character and diversity to the highway environment. These programs are the framework of Idaho Transportation Department’s wildflower and native habitat restoration programs.
Since 2001, ITD’s native plant program has reintroduced native species to thousands of road miles and incorporated native species into seed mixes and revegetation activities. Using native plants enhances biodiversity, preserves natural habitats, and restores native wildlife habitats.
Transportation planning and project development must reflect the desires of communities, and take into account the impacts on both the natural and human environments. Transportation projects are closely looked at to see how they might impact the community, the natural environment, and our health and welfare.
- The Natural Resources Conservation Service Plant Database
- FHWA’s Roadside Use of Native Plants
- Greener Roadsides
- Greener Roadside publications
- Beaverhead Mtn Ecoregion (District 6)
- Blue Mountain and Idaho Batholith Ecoregions (Districts 2, 3 and 6)
- Snake River Basalt and Owyhee Uplands Ecoregions (Districts 3, 4, 5 and 6)
- Okanogan Highlands Ecoregion (District 1)
- Palouse Prairie Ecoregion (Districts 1 and 2)
For additional information, contact Cathy Ford, Roadside Programs Coordinator, at (208) 334-8416.
- Why Pollinators Matter
- Idaho Pollinator Protection Plan
- Pollinator Friendly Practices
- Pollinator-Friendly Best Management Practices for Federal Lands
- Presidential Memorandum
- Pollinator-Friendly Best Management Practices for Federal Lands document
For additional information, contact Cathy Ford, Roadside Programs Coordinator, at (208) 334-8416.
ITD supports research, development, and technology transfer activities addressing the Department’s strategic goals and initiatives. It is ITD’s mission to develop and maintain effective partnerships, deliver efficient and effective transportation services, offer practical solutions for immediate and long-term problems, develop new tools/technologies and facilitate their implementation, and coordinate projects performed by universities and agencies.
Roadside research focuses on balancing concerns for natural habitats and environments while enhancing roadside vegetation communities. It is a comprehensive program that focuses on improving the quality of natural environment by reducing noxious and invasive species establishment and spread, reducing wind and soil erosion, improving slope stability, establishing sustainable native vegetation, restoring natural habitats, and protecting and enhancing ecosystems. Research initiatives support statewide planning and involvement with the environmental process, construction activities, and maintenance operations.
Partnerships are essential to an efficient and effective integrated roadside vegetation program. Partnership projects help reduce soil erosion, increase wildlife habitat, and reduce damages caused by invasive species, wildland fires and other natural disasters. Public benefits include enhanced natural resources that help sustain environmental quality while supporting continued economic development, recreation, and natural beauty.
Bureau of Land Management
The I-84 Hazardous Fuels project was initiated between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) in 2005 to implement fire management approaches to reduce the impact of devastating wildfires that have plagued the western U.S. for many years. The objective of the project is to increase public safety, improve the condition of natural resources on public lands by decreasing the number of fire starts originating from the I-84 transportation corridor, and decrease the spread and frequency of fires moving from the interstate onto adjacent public lands and into urban communities and sprawling home development.
Tri-State Cooperative Weed Management
The Tri-State project was initiated between WSDOT, MDOT, & ITD in 2006 to evaluate and implement noxious weed management strategies along the I-90 corridor stretching from Washington to Montana. The objective of the project is to implement a weed management plan and strategy for notifying agencies of new invaders, reduce economical impacts of new invaders, identify and stop the spread of new invaders across borders, educate the public and stakeholders on prevention and response measures, and increase awareness and communication.
Native Plant Research:
Integrated Erosion Control Methods:
Maintenance Services Manager
Roadside Programs Manager
Fuel Systems Manager
Headquarters TAMS Coordinator
Idaho Transportation Department
Mobility Services – Maintenance
PO Box 7129
Boise, Idaho 83707
Phone: (208) 334-8400
Idaho Transportation Department
Mobility Services – Maintenance
3293 Jordan Street
Boise, Idaho 83703
Fax: (208) 334-8595