March 2008 Transporter highlights
JFAC approves, forwards budget request
with only minor changes
With limited discussion and only minor changes, the Legislature’s Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee approved ITD’s fiscal year 2009 budget proposed by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter.
In contrast to other budget-setting sessions that sometimes required a morning of deliberation, JFAC needed less than two hours to approve and send to the full House and Senate the department’s budget appropriation and the GARVEE Program request.
“The discussion among JFAC members shows both a thorough understanding of our budget and a strong interest in Idaho’s transportation system,” said ITD Director Pam Lowe.
Bus tour provides first-hand look at I-84 project
for legislators, local officials, media
An informational bus tour this week showcased several construction projects planned on Interstate 84 in Nampa and Meridian as part of the state’s GARVEE (Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle) Transportation Program.
Nearly 30 Idaho lawmakers joined city leaders from Meridian and Nampa, local officials, and members of the Treasure Valley media on the bus tour Tuesday (March 4).
ITD’s project engineers presented information about several current and planned projects within the I-84 west corridor. ITD received so much interest in the tour, a second bus was added to accommodate more than 60 participants. Some lawmakers expressed interest in ITD’s plan to expand I-84 enough to add a fourth lane in each direction in the future.
Chairman of Aeronautics Advisory Board conducting
research on history of Idaho's airfields
Retirement and long winters in southern Idaho enable Rodger Sorensen to combine two passions and produce a valuable historic resource.
Sorensen, who is chairman of the Aeronautics Advisory Board, has long been interested in history and aviation. He is melding the interests into a comprehensive inventory of Idaho airfields – both past and present – with the intent of archiving the information and storing it on the transportation department’s Web site.
The project began in 2006, with an effort to list several of the facilities on the National Register of Historic Places. That project was modified, but Sorensen continued the research, with help from his wife Mary and aviation colleague Bill Womack and his wife Karen.
Avalanche mitigation program reduces
number of winter closures on Idaho 21
Avalanche-related closures on Idaho 21 have been significantly reduced this winter through the use of explosives that bring down unstable snow before it slides and blocks the highway.
The highway, one of Idaho's popular winter recreation routes and host to the vast majority of the state's avalanches, is typically closed 60 days per year. But this winter – one of he hardest in recent years – Idaho 21 has been closed just 28 days, largely because of ITD’s preemptive measures.
"Given the heavy winter we have had this season, this is a positive sign that we will be able to reach our goal of reducing closure days by about half," said ITD lead avalanche forecaster Jon Barker.
Three primary methods have been used in this first-year program to deliver explosives:
1. An avalauncher (similar to a cannon) that delivers explosives into avalanche chutes
2. "Heliblasting" a process of dropping explosives from helicopters into avalanche-prone areas
3. When conditions warrant, ITD avalanche mitigation crews ski into areas and set charges by hand
Volunteers fill language gap for ITD customers; list of interpreters available on Intranet
An increasingly diverse society and work environment dictate that communication be available to constituents in a variety of formats. ITD is responding to the needs of its clients by offering language assistance on an impromptu basis for customers who do not speak English fluently.
To help improve language services provided at Headquarters and District 3, Karen Sparkman generated an Intranet-based list of about 18 ITD employees who are available on a limited basis to help communicate with customers.
“We have a number of volunteers who provide language assistance as their schedules allow,” said Sparkman, the department’s manager of Equal Employment Opportunities – External Programs. “It has worked well on an occasional basis, but not many people realize we have employees with those special abilities.”
To make those services more widely known, Sparkman recently added a Web page that lists 18 individuals capable of providing language assistance as the needs arise and when they can work it around their other duties. The list can be viewed at http://www.itd.idaho.gov/civil/interpret.htm
Avalanche claims life of ITD's Carl Corder
A native of the Clearwater Valley, Carl Corder loved the outdoors and exploring it from the seat of a snowmobile. ITD and District 2, along with the Orofino and Ahsahka communities lost their good friend after he was caught in a rogue avalanche Sunday (March 16) near Headquarters in north-central Idaho.
Corder, a transportation technician, worked out of the Orofino area. He began his ITD career in 1987.
Director outlines measures to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions, conserve energy
ITD Director Pam Lowe today called on employees to participate in the department’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by implementing energy efficient practices.
The director’s memorandum issued today outlines nearly a dozen measures that “employees will immediately institute.”
Those measures include turning personal computer systems and monitors off at night and on weekend hours unless they need to be left on for overnight software updates; limiting temperatures in all ITD office buildings; forming car-pools for work-related meetings; eliminating the idling of state vehicles; increased recycling; and use of video conferencing or teleconferencing capabilities whenever possible.
District 1 crews develop innovative way
to fill sand bags for flood preparation
They say necessity is the Mother of invention. A few years ago, the Kootenai River flooding in Boundary County provided the perfect opportunity for some very innovative thinking on the part of county and ITD maintenance crews.
As the water levels in the river quickly rose, it became apparent that filling sandbags by hand was not keeping up with demand. That’s when the idea struck. ITD mechanic Mark Elliston and county shop foreman Terry Johnson knew there had to be a better, more efficient way, of filling sandbags, using a sander truck to fill the bags. After getting approval from foreman Jack Rupley, Mark designed a funnel-shaped device that attached to the sander box.
The prototype was assembled using pieces of scrap metal, and immediately put into service. What had been a labor intensive and time-consuming job, now took mere seconds to accomplish.
DMV introduces new online system for drivers
who want to pay
reinstatement fees or check their status
A new online service introduced by the Idaho Transportation Department allows motorists to check their driving status at no charge and allows payment of reinstatement fees for drivers with suspended or revoked licenses.
Idaho is one of the first states in the nation to offer this combination of online services.
Previously, drivers could check their driving status only by calling or visiting ITD’s Headquarters in Boise, or by purchasing a driving record. Reinstatement fee payments could be made only by phone, mail or in person.
ITD hopes the service, accessible from Idaho’s official Web site, http://www.idaho.gov , will reduce the number of telephone calls it receives daily from drivers who simply want to check their license status after they have completed reinstatement requirements. Officials estimate that 70 callers a day are requesting only a status check.