Transportation Board considers safety issues at September meeting

Safety issues, for drivers and for their youngest passengers, were main items of discussion when the Idaho Transportation Board held its monthly meeting in Rigby Sept. 16. 

Child Passenger Safety Week
Sept. 13-19 was National Child Passenger Safety Week.

Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for children ages 1 through 12. In 2014, there were eight fatalities involving children under the age of seven in Idaho. Five of those children were unrestrained.

The state’s child-safety-seat-usage rate for children ages 0-3 is 94 percent, but work still needs to be done to get parents to place their toddlers, ages 4-6, in child-safety seats or booster seats every single time. Last year, only 62 percent of children in this age group were properly placed in a child-safety seat or booster seat. Extensive outreach in both English and Spanish is being conducted to raise awareness about the importance of properly restraining children in motor vehicles.

Variable-speed limits
Variable-speed limits are being implemented on Interstate 15 from milepost 128.66 to 130.1. This stretch of interstate north of Idaho Falls frequently experiences reduced visibility caused by blowing dust, resulting in the closure of the interstate. The traffic count averages 5,000 vehicles per day, with about 27percent of those being trucks.

An engineering and traffic investigation was conducted, including reviewing the stopping-sight distance. Data from the RWIS (Road Weather Information System) site will be used to determine if a speed reduction is warranted. When conditions warrant a speed reduction, transition zones will be used. Outreach with local jurisdictions was conducted to inform them of the plan to implement a variable-speed zone.

District 6 report
A report on some of District 6’s activities and accomplishments was provided.

Ninety-seven percent of the district’s pavement is in good or fair condition, but the pavement condition is projected to drop to 84 percent by 2020. The district delivered all of FY16 projects on time. The winter mobility goal of 55 percent was exceeded, as D6 roads were not significantly impeded 70 percent of the time.

Notable safety improvements were realized on U.S. 20 between Idaho Falls and Sugar City. In 2000, the 25-mile, four-lane divided highway had 18 at-grade intersections with an average daily traffic count of 10,000 vehicles per day. The section averaged 80 serious-injury crashes and two fatal accidents annually. Since then, five interchanges were constructed and 13 of the at-grade crossings were closed. Even though the average daily traffic count has more than doubled to 21,500 and the speed limit was raised from 55 mph to 65 mph, the average number of serious-injury crashes has decreased to 38 annually and there have been zero fatal accidents on this stretch of highway during the past four years. The last five at-grade intersections will close in conjunction with the construction of the Thornton Interchange, which should be under construction soon.

Idaho Transportation Investment Program (ITIP)
The Board approved the recommended FY16-20 Idaho Transportation Investment Program (ITIP). The average available funding is $391 million annually, while $355.4 million is programmed for projects each year. The ITIP includes 774 projects, with an average cost of $2.3 million per project. It includes projects for pavement preservation, or seal coating, on 3,444 lane miles, pavement restoration for 1,070 lane miles, rehabilitating 18 bridges, replacing 66 bridges, constructing 300 ramps to Americans with Disabilities’ Act requirements, and 34 bicycle/pedestrian projects.

Thirty-eight comments were received during the public-comment period from July 1 through Aug. 1.  A number of comments supported the U.S. 95 and Ironwood Drive intersection project in Coeur d’Alene. Comments focused on a variety of projects, such as operational methods that protect wildlife, adding capacity lanes to U.S. 20/26 in District 3, safety improvements on Idaho 31 between Swan Valley and Driggs, and a bicycle lane on the highway between Blackfoot, Idaho Falls and Pocatello.

The next steps are to ensure that the metropolitan planning organizations’ Transportation Investment Programs are mirrored in the ITIP, and submit the document to the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency for approval.

Published 09-25-15