The Idaho Transportation Department will take a major step in helping motorists prepare for winter driving conditions when it introduces a new 511 Traveler Information service next month.
Public Information Officer Jeff Stratten, Assistant Chief Engineer Greg Laragan, Automated System Manager Millie Miles and Public Affairs Specialist Darla Christiansen explained organization and operation of the new system to the Idaho Transportation Board last week during its October meeting in Boise.
The Federal Communications Commission designated 511 as the national travel information telephone number. That designation allows states to use a common number to provide travel information – such as weather and road conditions – with the goal of improving the safety and efficiency of the highway system.
ITD established a steering committee composed of department personnel, Idaho State Police, Idaho Department of Administration, State Communications Center, and the Federal Highway Administration to study the feasibility of establishing a 511 system in Idaho.
The Idaho 511 team demonstrated the new informative, user-friendly system and explained how it can be accessed from land-line phones, cell phones and the 511 Web site (511.idaho.gov).
The board appointed a council to advise the board, to set policy and provide strategic oversight of the traveler services system. To provide leadership for a long-term sustainable focus on traveler services and motorist information, the council’s function includes:
The advisory council is composed of representatives from the transportation department, the Governor’s Office, Department of Health and Welfare Emergency Medical Services, Idaho State Police, Department of Commerce and Labor, Local Highway Technical Assistance Council, Motor Carrier Advisory Council, American Automobile Association, Public Transportation Advisory Council and Idaho Rural Partnership.
Other board action
Rest Area Program
Providing tourism related information blossomed in the early ‘70s and vending machines were added in the ‘80s.
With the board’s establishment of a Rest Area Program last year and its interest in making the facilities a high priority, a consulting firm was hired to manage the new program. The consultant’s focus is on project delivery, customer satisfaction and transparent stakeholder involvement.
The consultant also will seek opportunities to leverage funding through long-term partnerships.
Safe Routes to Schools
A Safe Routes to Schools program was included in reauthorization of the federal transportation bill by Congress – Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users.
The intent of the program is to:
Under the federal program, states will receive a minimum of $1 million each year of the transportation bill. Funds may be used for the planning, design and construction of infrastructure-related projects, non-infrastructure related activities such as public awareness campaigns, education, law enforcement, and funding a required full-time position of Coordinator of the Safe Routes to School Program.
The board approved a resolution authorizing ITD Director Dave Ekern to administer the Safe Routes to Schools program in accordance with federal requirements.