February 2008 Transporter highlights
Avalanches strand 12 trucks, force U.S. 12 closure
A series of four avalanches that began Thursday evening forced closure of the U.S. 12 east of Lowell and left a dozen semi-trucks/trailers stranded.
The first avalanche, about 20 feet high and 50 feet across swept onto U.S. 12 at about 4:45 p.m. (MST) Thursday. Initially, two semi-trucks were stranded on both sides of the avalanche because they were unable to turn around on the two-lane highway that follows the Lochsa River. Eight others arrived at the scene before the highway was closed.
Occupants of all 12 trucks remained at the site overnight and were transported by ITD personnel to maintenance facilities and then to Kooskia, which is about 73 miles east of Lewiston. There were no reported injuries; no medical units were dispatched and no medical services rendered.
One of the three subsequent avalanches pushed a loaded lumber truck into the Lochsa River. It was not occupied and remains in the river.
Design what is actually needed for road projects
Wade Allen, D-6 Region 1 Engineer
From the D-6 Newsletter Six-Bits
A few months ago, ITD started a new initiative called Practical Design, which can be defined as simply designing what is actually needed for a project rather than "over-designing" it. An example is our designing a 65 mph road for only that speed, not for a higher speed.
Practical Design should not be thought of as applying only to design work, however. It can also serve maintenance and construction functions. After all, a practical approach to anything may lead to cost savings.
In the last several months, Design and Materials have reviewed projects to ensure that District 6 is designing what is actually needed for roadways. We don’t want to merely follow an arbitrary standard.
One example of Practical Design in Maintenance is adding wing plows to some of our snowplows. These blade extensions cost more, but they speed plowing so that drivers can clear roadways in fewer passes. In recent meetings with the District 6 management team at area maintenance sheds, equipment operators suggested other ways to improve work processes.
ITD presents budget proposal to legislative committee
ITD Director Pam Lowe outlined the department’s Fiscal Year 2009 budget proposal and requested authorization for an additional $134 million in GARVEE bonds when she and department leaders met with the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriation Committee Thursday.
Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter recommends a $681.8 million budget for the state’s transportation system for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The budget includes $305 million in federal funds, $235.9 million in state funds, $6.9 million from other sources and the $134 million GARVEE bond request.
More than three-fourths of the federal sources ($235.8 million) and 17.5 percent ($41.4 million) of the state sources in the FY 09 budget would be used for contract construction, according to ITD’s proposal.
A slowing economy prompted ITD to revise revenue projections for both the current fiscal year and FY 09 downward by $10 million, Lowe told JFAC members.
ITD shares transportation priorities with statewide public television audience through Dialogue
Idaho citizens from Sandpoint to Chubbuck took advantage of new access to transportation when they posed questions to Transportation Board Chairman Darrell Manning and ITD Director Pam Lowe recently.
Manning and Lowe addressed a variety of transportation-related topics when they appeared on a special one-hour segment of Idaho Public Television’s Dialogue. The weekly program, usually 30 minutes, is conducted in an interview format with host Marcia Franklin. She discusses topics of general interest to Idahoans and invites callers from throughout the state to call in with questions for Dialogue guests.
In a prelude to the Jan. 24 program, Franklin said that nearly all facets of life in Idaho are touched in some way by transportation.
Lowe, who said she followed in her father’s footsteps by becoming a transportation engineer, indicated ITD’s top two focus areas are “efficiency – stretching the taxpayers’ dollars just as far as we absolutely can,” and improving customer service to the public.
Winter conditions continue to challenge travelers
Severe winter weather, snowfall and high winds, continued to make travel difficult throughout much of Idaho this week. The Idaho Transportation Department’s 511 Traveler Services system regularly indicated as many as a dozen highways, from Lewiston and Moscow to Montpelier were closed because of hazardous conditions.
ITD and the Idaho State Police encouraged motorists to avoid travel on highways that have received continual snowfall and are susceptible to high winds, blowing snow and low visibility
The Sun Valley area, while offering an abundance of snow for skiers, was virtually cut off from all outside access Friday (Feb, 8). The only highway open to travelers was from the east.
Many of the routes have been intermittently closed the past two weeks because of blowing and drifting snow. Closures and openings occur with little advance notice because of rapidly changing conditions.
Winter comes out of hibernation
ITD crews pressed into overtime to keep highways open
Winter returned to Idaho in December and it’s been vastly different than the conditions motorists grew accustomed to the past few years. The first snowfall in northern and eastern Idaho did not provide a hint of what was to come.
December gave way to January and ordinary gave way to extraordinary.
Avalanches beset Idaho’s highways… among them U.S. 12, U.S. 89, U.S. 95, Idaho 21 and Idaho 55. Snow blankets the mountain passes, agricultural fields and plateaus. Relentless wind shifts the snow like desert sands, but instead of rolling dunes, there are fingers of snowdrifts defying traditional plows.
And from border to border highways are filled with motorists who want to move from where they are to where they want to go with the least amount of interruption and inconvenience.
Gov. names Lee Gagner to transportation board
Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter Thursday appointed Lee Gagner (GAHN’-yay), an Idaho Falls builder/developer and former four-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, to fill the eastern Idaho position on the Idaho Transportation Board.
He succeeds John X. Combo of Idaho Falls, whose term expired Jan. 31.
Gagner, 67, will serve a six-year term on the board. The North Dakota native and lifelong entrepreneur served in the Legislature from 1997 through 2004, representing District 33. He and his wife, Linda, have two grown children.
ITD presents action plan for reducing greenhouse gases
ITD employees commuting to and from work contribute an estimated 3,468 tons of carbon dioxide to the earth’s atmosphere annually, according to a greenhouse gas report submitted to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.
The 2008-09 Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Action Plan was created in response to an executive order issued by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter last May that charges all state agencies with reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
It required state agencies to develop a greenhouse gas emission inventory and make recommendations on reducing those emissions.
Patti Raino coordinated ITD’s effort, under the direction of Matt Moore, administrator of ITD’s Division of Transportation Planning and Programming. A dozen ITD employees, representing a broad spectrum of disciplines, met last summer and fall to discuss ways the department could reduce greenhouse emissions.
Winter camp 2008:
Snowstorms turn travelers into lodging companions;
ITD joins agencies, local citizens in rescue effort
No one expected the 700 to 800 motorists stranded last weekend in Swan Valley to be happy campers!
Blowing and drifting snow closed U.S. 26 between Swan Valley and Ririe just after lunch on Thursday, Feb. 7, and the severe conditions persisted for two days.
Traffic backed up more than a mile – both on U.S. 26 and on Idaho 31, which intersects U.S. 26 in Swan Valley – unable to proceed until Saturday afternoon. It didn’t help that motorists from Wyoming kept coming, disregarding the road-closed-ahead warning in Alpine, Wyo., only to find that they had to stop at the barricade in Swan Valley.
Neither did it help that more motorists than usual wheeled down Idaho 31, hemmed in by the closure of Idaho 32 and 33 in Teton Valley to the north because of inclement weather there.
All these roads were closed, making it impossible to go west.
Rainbow Bridge project garners international award
Thousands of Idahoans experience it every year, but few realized the historic gem was losing its luster, one chunk or chip at a time. Rainbow Bridge, a traditional arched concrete bridge was showing its age, belying its coveted status on the National Register of Historic Places.
Recognizing the slow but steady assault that nature was exacting on the structure, ITD began a major rehabilitation project in 2006. Although work on the arch piers, floor beams, deck joints and columns took place outside the view of the motoring public, someone was paying close attention.
The International Concrete Repair Institute chose the Rainbow Bridge facelift as its 2007 Project of the year.
U.S. 95 project selected for national engineering award
A 7.5-mile highway reconstruction/realignment project that significantly improves safety for travelers on U.S. 95 in northern Idaho was selected recently for a national engineering award.
The American Council of Engineering Companies awarded National Finalist status to the U.S. 95 Setters to Bellgrove project that added new lanes, eliminated hazardous curves, replaced aging bridges and realigned portions of the highway.
The award will be presented April 29 during the 2008 Engineering Excellence Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. Representatives of CH2M HILL, the project engineer, will be on hand to accept the award.