Construction takes a mid-summer break next weekend
Motorists urged to use caution, patience

Construction projects that could impact travel on state and federal highways during the four-day Forth of July holiday weekend will be suspended for the convenience of motorists. The holiday break will begin Wednesday evening (July 3) and continue through Friday night, although most projects will be inactive through Sunday.

ITD requires contractors on highway construction projects to postpone work on any state highway or interstate, except for normal maintenance operations, during the extended holiday weekend if it could delay travelers. Work is allowed on the highway shoulders or other areas that do not directly impact traffic.

Some of those rare conditions in which work may continue are:

  • If crews are not working on a roadway open to the public;
  • If the road is already closed and all traffic is using a designated detour;
  • In an emergency situation (like flooding) where the roadway has been damaged and requires immediate repair; or
  • On roads with very low traffic volumes.

Just like most of us, contractors have little interest in continuing to work over the holiday," said ITD Chief Engineer Tom Cole. "Most probably would take these days off anyway, even if it was not required."

ITD asks travelers on Idaho 55 between Boise and McCall to schedule trips during off-peak hours to avoid the heaviest traffic and related delays. Motorists also should consider taking an alternate route, such as U.S. 95 to the west or Idaho 21 to the east.

To assist with traffic flow on Idaho 55, ITD will arrange for flaggers at its junction with the Banks-to-Lowman Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway. Flaggers will direct traffic Sunday afternoon.

The department has assisted motorists and recreational traffic over the longer Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day holiday weekends at the congested junction since 1995.

Travelers will see electronic message boards and flaggers in the corridor to help move traffic smoothly, starting at 10 a.m. Sunday. Flaggers will remain there until traffic on the Banks-Lowman highway can safely enter Idaho 55 without assistance.

An Incident Response vehicle also will be stationed at the junction.

"Congestion is heaviest at this location when travelers from the Garden Valley area access Idaho 55," said ITD Maintenance Engineer Tom Points. "We want everyone to have a safe and fun trip."

Idaho 55 accounts for about three times the traffic at the junction, so flaggers will maintain that 3-to-1 ratio when integrating vehicles from the Banks-to-Lowman highway. Motorists turning onto Idaho 55 can expect delays of up to 30 minutes.

ITD offers the following suggestions for holiday weekend travelers:

  • Congestion usually is heaviest on the last afternoon of the holiday weekend, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Consider returning before or after that time to avoid the rush.
  • Consider using an alternate route. To use U.S. 95, travel north on Idaho 55 from McCall to New Meadows, take U.S. 95 south and use Interstate 84 to return to the Treasure Valley. The route could take less time than using Idaho 55 on a congested day. Drivers from the Garden Valley area might consider using Idaho 21 through Idaho City to return to the Treasure Valley.
  • Those who use Idaho 55 when congestion is heaviest need to be patient and plan an extra hour or two for the return trip.
  • ITD also reminds drivers not to drink and drive, to buckle up, follow the posted speed limit and call 5-1-1 or check for highway travel conditions.

The Idaho State Police joins ITD in special patrols that focus on impaired driving (see separate story). Law enforcement officers will have zero tolerance for motorists who operate vehicles while impaired by alcohol or drugs. ISP and local law enforcement officers also remind drivers that all occupants of a vehicle are required to use seat belts and that it is illegal to text while driving.

ISP encourages motorists to stay alert while driving, slow down and leave early to arrive on time, and to avoid cell phone use while driving.

“This will help to reduce the distractions while driving and help assure that your attention is focused on the road. If you need to make a call, pull off the highway at a safe location. This simple decision could save you and your family from disaster,” according to ISP.

Published 6-28-13