Idaho Ready: Pack your winter car emergency kit

Winter weather has arrived in Idaho and it’s time to be Idaho Ready on the road. One way you can do that? Keep an emergency kit in your car this winter.

You want to be prepared for anything that comes your way, so here are a few things you should always have with you when traveling.

  • Flashlight — make sure the batteries work
  • Jumper cables — in case your car won’t start, or maybe you need to help someone else
  • Kitty litter can give you some traction if your tires are spinning on ice
  • Chains
  • Small shovel to dig out around your tires or tailpipe
  • Flares and a first aid kit
  • Food and water — pack high protein snacks that will fill you and your family up for a while
  • Anything to keep you warm — a blanket or a small sleeping bag, winter coat, gloves, hat, and waterproof boots
  • Ice scraper

If you run off the road, break down, or simply get stuck during a storm, these items will help keep you warm and safe until help arrives. Remember, always let someone know about your travel plans, especially if you’ll be driving through areas with no cell service. Check the latest road conditions at 511.idaho.gov before you leave.

Idaho Ready: Winter driving insight from ITD’s snow plow operators

In Idaho you have to be prepared for all sorts of winter weather, and that means being Idaho Ready to drive safely. The Idaho Transportation Department wants drivers to have the knowledge and resources to do that, before they hit the road. Read the messages below to gain some winter driving insight from ITD’s own snow plow operators.

Blasting operations underway on ID-55

Rock blasting is underway between Smiths Ferry and the Rainbow Bridge as road construction continues on ID-55.

The goal is to make this narrow, curvy mile-long stretch of state highway safer, by building wider shoulders, adding guardrail, and straightening the road.

140,000 cubic yards of rock need to come off the canyon, and it’s happening one controlled blast at a time. How do they do it? It takes a lot of work and careful planning.

Strategically spaced holes are drilled into the rock differing in size and depth depending on the situation, then the explosives are placed inside.

“We’re using a nitro glycerin based dynamite as a primer, and then we use ammonium nitrate as a blasting agent,” said Blast Operator Ryan Miller. “Each hole is timed, a 40th of a second. We shot that in a V, and the reason it stayed on the hill is because we shot the center first, and kind of sucked it uphill.”

Each blasting design plan is closely reviewed.

“The whole idea is to move the rock in the direction we want it to. We don’t want to launch into the river, fly rock is our enemy,” Miller added.

Through late November, weather permitting, the work zone is closed to traffic every Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. so crews can safely blast and haul away the rock.

Drivers are urged to plan around the closures or use US-95 as a detour.

“We don’t want people or cars traveling through the work zone during blasting. It’s also an incredibly tight work zone with the river off to the east and the rock faces out to the west. So giving the contractor that four hours is really letting them be as efficient as possible,” said Project Engineer Alex Deduck.

Steel containers and temporary barrier keep the falling rock from getting in the travel lane, and protect the crews working in this steep canyon. When the road is not fully closed, one lane is open to alternating traffic.

“Now that we’ve reduced it to one lane it’s even tighter, and just a hard area to work in,” Deduck said.

This winter, construction will pause and both lanes will be open.

In the spring, blasting picks back up with full road closures Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and during the busy summer, one lane will be open to alternating traffic Monday through Friday morning. Both lanes will be open Friday afternoon through Sunday.

You can learn more about the project and sign up for updates at itdprojects.org/ID55smithsferry. The project is expected to finish in late fall 2022.

For the latest road conditions, be sure to download the Idaho 511 app or visit 511.idaho.gov.

Crews successfully slide new I-84 bridge into place

demolition of the blacks creek bridge begins

Normally, bridges moving is not something an engineer wants to see, but this weekend construction crews slid the first of two new bridges at the Interstate 84 Blacks Creek Interchange sixty feet into place — where it will stay for decades to come.

The slide-in-place maneuver was designed to minimize impacts to the heavily traveled Interstate. Crews construct the bulk of the new bridge right next to the existing structure. When ready, the old bridge is demolished and the replacement structure is slid into place.

“The driving force behind choosing a lateral bridge slide method was our focus on the people we serve and their ability to get where they need to go.” said Patrick Kelly, the ITD project manager overseeing the work. “We were able to keep lanes open during the entire bridge construction process. Once it was ready, we closed the eastbound lanes, demolished the old structure, pushed the new bridge into place, and are wrapping up construction on the adjacent roadway. In the end, we will have closed interstate lanes of traffic for weeks rather than months.”

The whole process, from demolition to reopening traffic, will take two to three weeks. Normal bridge replacements can take several months. With the new bridge in place, crews have just a few final items to complete, including work at the bridge abutments and repaving approaches.

To get the bridge from temporary footings to its permanent home, crews lay down Teflon pads and cover them with dish soap. Then, heavy machinery pushes and pulls the structure into place. It’s a surprisingly effective way to reduce friction and easily move the massive structure.

“Seeing how smoothly the bridge slid into place was very satisfying.” said Kelly. “It has been months of planning, preparation, and a lot of hard work to get to this point. The crews from Knife River have done a wonderful job and should be very proud of the work they’ve done.”

This method has been used before in the Gem State when, in 2014, the Lardo Bridge on ID-55 in McCall was replaced. There, as it is at Blacks Creek, the highway is an essential connection and lengthy disruptions are very impactful.

The second bridge for the westbound lanes has been constructed next to the old structure. Crews are currently finishing up the eastbound side of the interchange, including work on ramps and Blacks Creek Road. They will be ready to slide the westbound bridge into place in early August using the same method.

For more information about the project, visit ITDprojects.org/i-84-blacks-creek-interchange/.

Intersection closures and girder placement on ID-55 in Marsing Oct. 1, 2019

crane places girders for bridge

Several intersections on Idaho 55 will be closed beginning Oct. 1. Construction crews are placing concrete gutters along the roadway. Access at each intersection’s will remain closed for 2-3 days (weather permitting) while the concrete hardens.

What to expect:

  • All work will be done during daytime hours.
  • Work is anticipated to take approximately two weeks to complete (weather permitting).
  • Work will be conducted between Bruneau Hwy. to Edwards St. on the north; Bruneau Hwy. to 9th St. on the south.
  • Side streets will be closed to all traffic while work is being done and while concrete hardens. Closures will be staggered.
  • Major intersections will be reduced down to one lane, but will remain open at all times. Steel plates will be placed over the gutter work while concrete hardens.

Flaggers will assist with the gutter operations at the major intersections.

The contractor will be placing the next set of girders tonight, Oct. 1. What to expect:

  • ID-55 and the Snake River Bridge will be closed for up to 30 minutes each time one of the girders are being placed.
  • Sunny Slope Road southbound will be reduced to one lane between Lowell and True roads. The lanes will be restricted from noon to 2:00 am each night to stage the bridge girders.
  • Work will generally be done between 10:00 pm and 2:00 am.
  • The work will be noisy.

I-84 in Nampa will be detoured overnight Sept. 16-19 for work on Karcher Overpass

Karcher Overpass under Construction

Interstate 84 will be closed overnight between the Karcher/Midland and Northside interchanges on Monday, Sept. 16 through Thursday, Sept. 19. The closures will allow crews to safely remove the wooden forms that temporarily supported the new bridge deck this summer.

  • Westbound I-84 will be closed for two nights – Sept. 16 and Sept. 17. Each night I-84 will be closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • Eastbound I-84 will be closed for two nights – Sept. 18 and Sept. 19. Each night I-84 will be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

During the four overnight closures, motorists will exit I-84 at Karcher/Midland or Northside and follow a detour along Karcher Road. Flaggers will direct traffic. View the detour map.

Lane restrictions and flaggers will also be in place on the Northside Boulevard between the ramps each night while crews begin to work on the new bridge.

The new Karcher Overpass is on schedule to re-open later this fall. Reconstruction of the Northside Interchange has begun and will continue through early 2021.

For more information about the reconstruction of I-84 in Canyon County, visit itdprojects.org/84Corridor. To receive construction updates; text 84corridor to 555888. “Drive Idaho,” ITD’s new podcast series on all things I-84 in Canyon County, is available for download on Spotify and Apple Podcast and other major podcast sharing sites.

New traffic pattern will take effect week of August 4 on westbound I-84 at Franklin Boulevard exit

Traffic on WB I-84 near the Franklin Blvd interchange

Ahead of constructing additional lanes on Interstate 84 in Canyon County, the Idaho Transportation Department is reconfiguring westbound lanes of the Interstate near the Franklin Blvd. interchange.

Currently, three westbound lanes are reduced to two lanes with the far left lane merging into the center lane. In the new configuration, the left lane will no longer merge, remaining a travel lane. The far right lane will end, used as the off-ramp to Franklin Blvd. A similar configuration is on westbound I-84 at the Garrity Blvd. interchange, where the Interstate is reduced from four to three lanes.

A graphic showing the new lane configuration of I-84 near Franklin Blvd.

“This reconfiguration maintains the existing capacity of I-84 during construction,” said ITD Project Manager Styles Salek. “With this change, we remind motorists to slow down, plan ahead and pay attention in construction zones.”

In order to promote the safety of motorists and construction crews, ITD has partnered with the Idaho State Police to provide enhanced patrols throughout the duration of the project.

This change will allow crews to begin adding lanes in the I-84 median between Karcher/Midland and Franklin Boulevard. The addition of lanes is part of the ongoing I-84 corridor project from Nampa to Caldwell. Improvements are expected to improve safety, address congestion and benefit the regional economy for many years.

For more information about the I-84, Karcher to Franklin project, listen to the Drive Idaho podcast, visit itdprojects.org/84corridor or text 555888 to request construction updates. You can also contact ITD at 84corridor@itd.idaho.gov and (208) 334-8002.

ITD lowers speed limit on I-84 in Caldwell to 65 MPH

I-84 speed limit reduction in Caldwell

Following a speed study of I-84 in the urbanized parts of the Treasure Valley, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is reducing the speed limit on the western side of Caldwell to 65 MPH.

The current speed limit on I-84 traveling west goes from 65 MPH to 80 MPH after the Notus/Parma Exit (Exit 26). Due to the high number of vehicles using Middleton Exit (Exit 25) both east- and westbound coupled with varying speeds of thru traffic and merging vehicles, the Department determined a speed reduction was warranted. The 65 MPH speed zone will now extend west of Exit 25. Crews will place new speed limit signs today.

“We observed significant variations in speeds, with entering traffic speeding up to merge with I-84 traffic, which was slowing for the speed limit change,” said ITD Traffic Technical Engineer Erika Bowen. “This resulted in a number of near misses between cars on the Interstate and those looking to enter. Given the high demand at the Middleton Exit, we believe the change will improve the driving conditions in this area.”

ITD routinely studies sections of the State Highways System to ensure the safety, mobility, and economic opportunity of the traveling public is best served. Staff looks at the pavement condition, crash history, geometry, signage, and observed driver behavior when considering changes to the highway.

Over the last five years, growth near the Middleton Exit has seen an increase of 5,000 vehicles per day added to this section of I-84. During the evening commute, congestion often occurs at Exit 25 causing backups on the westbound off-ramps. ITD is looking at solutions for this separate situation to improve the efficiency of the interchange.

Memorial Day Travel Advisory for Treasure Valley residents

Traffic Congestion Generic

Memorial Day weekend is nearly upon us, and ITD is issuing the follow travel advisory to inform those planning to drive from the Boise area of conditions on and along the area highways.

Construction Impacts

Interstate 84

There are two projects active on I-84 to the east and west of the Boise area.

Bridge rehabilitation on the bridge over Purple Sage Road west of Caldwell has reduced the Interstate to a single lane in each direction. Speed limits are reduced and motorists should anticipate delays.

Pavement rehabilitation and construction of a third westbound lane are active east of Mountain Home. Motorists will be channeled into a single lane and speed limits are reduced.

U.S. 95

There are two construction projects that will have active impacts over the weekend. Both are bridge replacements that currently have only one travel lane. The first project is located approx. 10 miles north of Council. The second is the Little Rainbow Bridge, approx. 13 miles north of New Meadows. Both construction zones are controlled by temporary signals. Motorists should anticipate delays on this route.

Idaho Highway 55

One active project on ID-55 is the repavement of the highway south of Smiths Ferry. Work will be suspended starting Friday, May 24 and not resume until Tuesday, May 28. Motorists should use caution in the area and obey traffic signs. There will be uneven surfaces as the project remains partially constructed.

Another project on ID-55 in Canyon County is the bridge and road reconstruction in Marsing. Construction impacts will remain active over the weekend. Travel will be reduced to one lane in each direction. Motorists should expect delays in the area.

Travel Conditions

Prolonged rainfall and cooler temperatures mean the mountains are saturated. This increases the risk of rockfall and mudslides. Motorists should be aware of the possibility of hazards on the road and drive with caution. Remember to remove distractions and Drive Well, focusing on the important task of engaged driving.

Congestion is common on these mountain highways during summer holidays. In particular, the intersection of ID-55 and Banks-Lowman Road sees heavy traffic. To mitigate this increase, ITD will flag this intersection on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day.

ITD is encouraging vehicles traveling from the Sun Valley region to the Boise area consider alternate routes or travel outside the busiest times (noon to early evening) to avoid delays at the intersection of ID-55 and Banks-Lowman Rd.

Be sure to check 511 before leaving to see the latest road conditions and impacts. You can call, visit the website, or download the app for Apple or Android devices.

Traffic reduced over Snake River Bridge in Marsing

A crane looms over a bridge

The Snake River Bridge will be reduced to one lane beginning Tuesday, April 9 in preparation for rebuilding the bridge.

What to expect at the Snake River Bridge:

  • Temporary traffic signals will be placed on both sides of the bridge to direct traffic.
  • Motorists should expect delays of up to 15 minutes.
  • The speed limit on the bridge will be reduced from 35 mph. to 25 mph.

The lane and the speed reductions on the Snake River Bridge will remain in effect until the bridge rebuild is complete. ITD will begin reconstructing the north side of ID-55 on April 9. Traffic will be switched to the south side of ID-55 in downtown Marsing while crews begin to reconstruct the north side of ID-55.

What to expect on ID-55:

  • Work will occur between 4th Avenue and Riverfront.
  • Work will occur during daytime hours.
  • Temporary traffic signals will direct traffic. Expect delays of up to 15 minutes.
  • Driveway access will remain open with brief delays.

Pedestrians are encouraged to use the south side of ID-55.