ITD might need larger trophy case after winning 4 AASHTO awards

ITD received more national awards than any other state Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in Denver.

The department earned three coveted AASHTO Presidents Awards in administration, aviation and the environment. It also received the prestigious Frank B. Francois Award in innovation for its unique winter storm performance process.

The Francois award includes $10,000 from AASHTO, which will go to a student or students enrolled in engineering at an Idaho higher education institution.

“We are pleased to receive four national transportation awards – more than any state in the country,” said ITD Director Brian Ness. “This brings us to a total of 19 national awards for the year.”

Ness said ITD’s drive to become the nation’s leader in transportation will be realized when other state agencies look to Idaho as an example.

“Our vision is to be the best transportation department in the country. Bringing home this many awards shows we are well on our way to achieving that goal,” he added.

ITD also received a regional America’s Transportation Award this summer, and joined nine other states competing for the national honor. In that competition, ITD’s Sand Creek Byway project led all 10 states in the people’s choice voting until the final day. Idaho finished behind Missouri and ahead of seven other states.

AASHTO President’s Award – Administration
Under Ness’s leadership, ITD went through a remarkable transformation the past three years. Realigning the department’s structure reduced the number of reporting layers from nine to six, eliminated 62 instances of one employee being managed by one supervisor, reassigned 11 deputies or assistants and eliminated duplication of efforts.

Through realignment, ITD generated $5.7 million in savings the first year and another $7 million in the second year – savings that were reinvested in operations and employees.

AASHTO President’s Award – Aviation
ITD received the highest honor in aviation for developing a first-in-the-nation touch-screen application for iPads that improves air safety in Idaho. The “app” includes a visual directory and runway diagrams for all of Idaho’s airports and airstrips.

The easily accessible application provides a wealth of equally important safety tools that pilots can use to make safer takeoffs and landings in Idaho’s mountainous and challenging terrain.

AASHTO President’s Award – Environment
The Sand Creek Byway project, which routes through traffic around congested downtown Sandpoint, concluded more than 50 years of discussion and planning. The environmental award was based on the complex nature of the project, the high level of ecological and technical challenges and the level of public participation.

The byway was built along the picturesque Sand Creek on the eastern edge of Sandpoint. Thousands of passenger and commercial vehicles traveled through the construction zone during the summer months of three construction seasons.

The project included grade-separated interchanges at each end, threading the three-lane roadway between two water bodies (Sand Creek and Lake Pend Oreille), an historic railroad depot and an existing mainline railroad track.

Francis B. Francois Award ($10,000)
A unique program introduced in southeast Idaho and adopted statewide, gives ITD empirical data to determine the effectiveness of winter storm maintenance activities. The intent of the winter performance maintenance process is to improve safety and mobility for travelers by guiding decisions about surface applications – which alternatives to use, when to apply and how much to apply.

Slide-off crashes have been reduced by more than 40 percent in southeast Idaho and ice duration was reduced by about 75 percent.

More than a dozen states have inquired about the process and several states plan to implement similar measures. ITD’s innovation also attracted interest in Belgium, Japan and Andorra.

Published 10-25-13