Operations working alongside engineering
for tree removal during Interstate 90 bridge repair

Drivers have noticed the orange barrels and new crossovers in place for bridge repairs on Interstate 90 just west of Coeur d’Alene, but they probably didn’t catch the ITD workers in the median.

For the last few weeks, the operations crew has been taking advantage of the lane closure necessary for construction to tackle a tough problem: trees near the route that are leaning or dead with the potential to one day fall on lanes of traffic that see up to 60,000 vehicles on an average day. 

It’s work that can’t be done at night for safety reasons, and one doesn’t unexpectedly shut down a lane on I-90 during the day unless they want the phones to start ringing.

Thankfully, proactive steps taken earlier by Maintenance Foreman Marc Johnson and D1 Resident Engineer Justin Wuest allowed this progressive partnership to form.

“Last fall I was able to work with Marc to set up an informal meeting,” Wuest said. “I asked some of my staff to share upcoming projects with his crew members to keep everyone informed but to also gain insight into their project areas.”

By using construction as a mask, crew member Nick Primmer said they’ve been able to remove 100 trees in the median and on the eastbound shoulder already.

“It’s worked really well,” Primmer said. “There have been challenges staying up to date on the contractor’s schedule, but we’ve coordinated traffic control through Shannon Stein (the project manager).”

Primmer said their crew had talked about doing this work last fall, but that timely meeting ultimately identified the best way to meet their goals in one combined undertaking, rather than doing touchup work afterwards.

“Now there’s a real effort to appreciate the perspective that operations can offer,” Primmer said. “Those in engineering right now are receptive to our ideas and open to trying new things.”

Wuest sees the value in regularly bringing their groups together.

“Our skillsets and how ITD functions can naturally keep our groups apart, but this project shows that working together can result in a better product for the public,” Wuest said.

Published 04-26-19