February 2009 highlights
Gov. Otter introduces transportation funding proposal
Initiative under way to operate Reed Ranch Airstrip
The Reed Ranch Airstrip, a private facility that has been accessible by permission only, may become part of Idaho’s network of state-operated airstrips and available for public use. ITD’s Division of Aeronautics recently submitted a special use application to the U.S. Forest Service requesting authority for the state to open, operate and maintain the airstrip for public use.
The airstrip is located in rugged north-central Idaho’s Payette National Forest (PNF), about 18 miles east of McCall in the South Fork Salmon River drainage.
The Forest Service acquired the Reed Ranch as part of an exchange with Brundage Mountain Resort in 2006. At the time, the airstrip was defined as “Privately owned, not for public use. Possible unreported hazards. User assumes all risk. Prior permission required.”
ITD shares GARVEE experience with Alaska DOT
Alaska has a problem – more transportation infrastructure needs than available resources to meet those needs. Sound familiar?
Representatives from the Alaska Department of Transportation recently visited ITD as part of a trip through the Pacific Northwest looking at how the neighbors – Idaho, Oregon and Washington – are managing their transportation infrastructure challenges.
Unlike most states, Alaska relies almost solely on federal money to fund transportation projects. In 2008, nearly three-quarters of Alaska’s $810 million transportation budget came from federal funding. Future plans for the 49th state include a possible $2 billion transportation investment program.
Increased I-84 patrols lead to decrease in injury crashes
The number of injury crashes in the I-84 corridor between Nampa and Boise dropped by almost two-thirds - from 26 to 9 - thanks to increased work zone patrols over the last six months. The Idaho State Police (ISP), through an agreement with ITD, increased patrols in the 12-mile work zone last August.
From Aug. 15 to Dec. 31, 2008, ISP investigated 95 crashes investigated in the work zone, down from 114 for the same time period in 2007. That was accomplished despite the considerable number of crashes that occurred during the relatively severe winter weather conditions in the Treasure Valley the last two weeks of December 2008, a month with more than 20 inches of snow.
Gov. Otter introduces five revenue-generating bills
Flanked by about 50 proponents of increased transportation funding, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter outlined five legislative bills that would begin to address Idaho’s growing backlog of highway and bridge projects.
The half-hour news conference on the steps of the Capitol Annex came immediately after members of the House Transportation and Defense Committee agreed to send all of the bills for printing.
In doing so, the legislative committee agreed to begin discussion of Otter’s plan that would generate an estimated $174 million annually by the fifth and final year of implementation. He recommends increasing the state fuel tax, which has been 25 cents per gallon since 1996, by two cents every year for the next five years, raising the total fuel tax to 35 cents per gallon in 2014. The increase would generate an estimated $17.6 million for highway and bridge projects next year and about $88 million annually by 2014.
Director presents budget request to JFAC
ITD Director Pam Lowe presented the governor’s budget proposal for the department Thursday morning to members of the legislature’s Joint Appropriations and Finance Committee.
During the session that lasted nearly three hours, Lowe also reviewed the department’s efficiency efforts, discussed findings of a peer review and Office of Performance Evaluation audit and described the deteriorating condition of Idaho’s infrastructure. Lowe and ITD administrators also gave legislators an overview of the GARVEE bonding program and reviewed revenue trends.
ITD’s requested legislative appropriation of $513.6 million would go to:
• Contract construction and right of way acquisition, $294.4 million
• Personnel, $116.8 million
• Operating expenses, $66.2 million
• Capital equipment, $20.0 million
• Trustee & benefits, $13.3 million
• Capital facilities, $2.9 million
D-3 employees share American spirit with athletes
Employees from ITD’s District 3 were among the hundreds of volunteers who helped make the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games a tremendous success in Idaho. ITD’s employees provided services from hospitality to transportation security.
Joy Finley, administration, helped with hospitality, making sure the athletes felt welcome and comfortable while in Idaho. Althea Fackrell, central maintenance, and Kelly Byrne, materials, volunteered to help with accommodations, ensuring athletes got on the right buses in the morning and arrived safely back at the hotel in the evening.
Fackrell, who said her job also included small chores, such as replacing lost room keys and fetching personal items, felt a personal bond with the athletes.
Dan Bryant and Terry Zabel, central maintenance and Jim Morrison, District 3 Construction Manager, assisted with transportation security, monitoring the 150 buses as they made their way to and from eight venues in southwest Idaho. Dan’s wife, Michelle Bryant, was part of the awards committee, helping to present gold, silver and bronze metals.
ITD blessed with strong cadre of women leaders
Women hold a variety of leadership positions within the Idaho Transportation Department. Its director is a woman and more than a dozen female engineers are scattered throughout the state, including Fran Hood, Construction Engineer and Kathleen Slinger, Bridge Inspector – both of which are statewide positions.
“ITD is one of the more progressive transportation departments in the country when it comes to gender,” Hood said. “Women here don’t think of themselves as ‘female engineers’ - we are engineers on equal standing with men, and are treated as such.”
The ITD Web site has links for women who seek engineering degrees, scholarships, and for anyone who wishes to apply for ITD’s Engineer-in-Training (EIT) program. Among them are engineergirl.org and constructmyfuture.com . Of the 12 engineers participating in the latest class of EITs, two are women.
From 1952 to 1980, just five of the 207 EITs participants were women (2.4 percent). Since 1990, however, 15 of 78 EITs have been women (19.2 percent), reflecting a surge in interest among women in the engineering field and greater acceptance of their contributions.
ITD snowplow driver injured in I-15 crash
ITD snowplow operator Josh Sprague escaped serious injury this week when his vehicle was struck from behind while he was plowing snow on Interstate 15 about five miles north of Idaho Falls.
A semi truck was unable to stop in time and hit the sanding equipment mounted on the back of a 10-wheel ITD snowplow. Sprague was operating in the left (passing) lane of the interstate.
He was transported to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls where he was treated for minor injuries and then released. Damage to the truck he was driving appeared to be confined to the sanding equipment. The semi truck, operated by Victorino Diaz-Flores of Oregon, received front-end damage. Diaz-Flores was not injured.
Moles named new district maintenance engineer
Gary Moles was named District 3’s Maintenance Engineer on Feb. 6.
Moles has served in several capacities in his tenure with ITD, including District 3 Materials Engineer, Roadway Design Area Engineer, and District 3 Region 4 Engineer. He has been with ITD since being hired as an EIT in Nov. 1979.
The district also returned to the traditional ITD organization structure. This is in response to a continually increasing construction workload and its impact on the ability of the four Regional Engineers in charge of both construction and maintenance to devote adequate attention to both.
Stokes part of delegation meeting with U.S. Transportation Secretary
ITD Deputy Director Scott Stokes and his counterparts in Montana and Wyoming were part of a delegation of transportation officials from throughout the nation who met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently to discuss the federal economic recovery pending package.
Stokes, Jim Lynch (Montana), and John Cox (Wyoming) contributed key points to discussion during the final hour of the informal meeting. They emphasized the value of interconnected Interstate and National Highway systems to the nation’s economy.
Second snowplow damaged; two vehicle occupants killed
For the second time in less than a week an ITD snowplow driver was slightly injured while clearing Idaho highways of snow and ice in District 6. In contrast to the earlier crash, however, Monday’s collision resulted in two fatalities.
The driver of a passenger vehicle died when the car hit the front end of an ITD snowplow on U.S. 93. A passenger in the vehicle was transported to a local hospital and later flown to Boise with critical injuries. The crash occurred at about 7:30 p.m. seven miles west of the Craters of the Moon National Monument.
Emergency responders had to remove the roof of the car to extricate the two occupants after the passenger side of the car wedged into the blade of the snowplow truck. The driver died at the scene. The passenger was transported to St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center near Ketchum and later flown to St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise where he passed away.
ITD maintenance worker Howard Morris of Arco, received minor injuries; he was transported to the hospital where he was treated and released.
Federal grant to put Idaho highways on map
Creating and maintaining comprehensive one-stop information about all of Idaho’s roadways – state, city and county – has been an elusive goal. A partnership involving ITD and Inside Idaho (University of Idaho) recently was awarded a $68,000 grant from the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) to support and further data collection and exchange under the National Spatial Infrastructure Cooperative Agreement Program.
Idaho’s proposal was one of four nationwide to be funded for the Cooperative Agreements Program (CAP) Category 7 grant. CAP grants are intended to “fund innovative projects in the geospatial data community to build the infrastructure necessary to effectively discover, access, share, manage and use digital geographic data.”
The project demonstrates ITD’s collaboration with local governments, other state agencies and the federal government, said GIS Manager Brian Emmen.
District engineers rekindle love for music
Good friends, a warm campfire and the rolling Colorado River. Is there a better environment for rediscovering yourself and reviving passions of the past? Ed Bala and Dave Jones would argue no.
'We’re more of a small riot. We’re like a small corporation that runs more like a Greek democracy.' “Somewhere in their pursuit of engineering careers, raising families and the busyness of life, Bala and Jones parted ways with the music they once loved. High school band faded into distant memory. Instruments collected dust.
Until their 2003 trip into the heart of the Grand Canyon. As they relished a good meal in the pristine setting after a day on the rapids, Jones brought out a guitar and started massaging the strings. Melody and harmony followed. And music, long lost, was reborn.