Saturday, August 9, 2014

Mega-Loads Taking Longer Than Expected to Reach Idaho Panhandle

Posted By on Sat, Aug 9, 2014 at 1:40 PM

  • Google Maps

A 926,000-pound piece of oil refining equipment the size of a NASA rocket is on its way to the Idaho Panhandle, but it isn't getting there as quickly as the Idaho Department of Transportation expected.

A few days ago, Boise Weekly reported on the massive shipment, which will go from Lewiston, up the 7-mile U.S. 95 grade, through the Palouse to Moscow, then to Coeur d'Alene and then cross the 2-mile Long Bridge stretching from the mouth of the Pend Oreille River to Sandpoint. From there, it will take the winding and scenic Highway 200 into Montana to it's ultimate destination: Great Falls, Mont. 

The Idaho Transportation Department told BW the mega-load could move as early as today or Sunday, but the Coeur d'Alene Press reports this morning that the mega-loads probably won't reach Sandpoint until Wednesday, Aug. 13. IDT awarded the permits on Aug. 8 allowing the rig to travel from 10 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. for the next five days. The permit can be extended if travel takes longer than expected.

Controversy has flared up around the mega-loads on every route they've taken, though, and this one is no different.

"The taxpayer-funded agency should not even consider allowing such a heavy load to cross this almost two-mile-long bridge, especially during the Aug. 7-17 Festival at Sandpoint series of musical concerts, one of the largest tourist events each year in the area," said the climate change organization Wild Idaho Rising Tide on its blog.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Idaho is the 10th Most Expensive Place to Buy Gas

Posted By on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 at 12:37 PM

A gallon of regular gas currently costs $3.83 in Boise, making Idaho the 10th most expensive place to fill your tank, according to AAA Idaho. We're up there with Hawaii ($4.34 per gallon), Alaska, California, Washington, Connecticut, Oregon, New York, the District of Columbia and Nevada. The national average for a gallon of gas right now is $3.59.

Gas prices climbed three cents since this time last week, and 24 cents since this time last month. A year ago today, the cost of regular gasoline was $3.79 per gallon. The highest price ever for Boise was in July 2008, when prices hit $4.12 per gallon.

The Idaho Press Tribune reports that the national average may continue to drop, or at least remain flat. Prices usually come down after the Fourth of July.

"It may be premature to speculate why this region is paying more for its gasoline," AAA Idaho spokesman Dave Carlson told the Tribune. He said this trend is similar to last year, too.
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Monday, June 23, 2014

Interstate Highway Speed Limits to Change Next Week

Posted By on Mon, Jun 23, 2014 at 11:42 AM

Traveling through some parts of Idaho is about to get a little faster.

Starting Tuesday, July 1, speed limits on rural stretches of interstates 15, 84 and 86 will increase to 80 mph for passenger automobiles—that's up from the 75 mph speed limit instituted in 1996—and 70 mph for trucks. 

The changes do not affect the 65 mph speed limits between Caldwell and east Boise, nor similar limits in Pocatello and Idaho Falls. 

The speed limit increase was approved by the Idaho Legislature this year and signed into law by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter March 18. Part of the law allows for speed limit increases on state highways to 70 mph, though those increases will take effect at a later date pending engineering studies.
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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Cities Launch Drive for Fare-Free Buses

Posted By on Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 9:21 AM

Here's a radical idea: free buses.

City of Missoula, Mont., officials are pushing to add $50,000 in city funds to a community partnership that is looking to raise $400,000 to make Mountain Line buses free to ride in and around the city.

This morning's Missoulian reports that voters have already approved a $1.7 million levy to beef up frequency and extend the hours of operation of the Missoula Urban Transportation District. Transportation officials say that, coupled with a fare-free system, they could increase ridership by 45 percent in just three years.

The Missoulian reports that some heavy hitters have stepped in to help raise the $400,000, including the University of Montana, two local hospitals, the local mall and other businesses.

Corvallis, Ore., another university town, has already launched a fare-free bus system.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Welcome to the 100 Deadliest Days on Idaho Roads

Posted By on Mon, May 26, 2014 at 9:21 AM

They call them the "100 deadliest days on Idaho roads." The stretch between Memorial Day and Labor Day offers plenty of enjoyment for families, but law enforcement know that the same period is the deadliest time for crashes on Idaho roads, in spite of the fact that road conditions are often at their best.

And in spite of the fact that Ada, Boise and Canyon counties contain just one-third of the state's population, the same region accounts for 50 percent of all bicycle and pedestrian crashes, 39 percent of motorcycle crashes and 38 percent of aggressive crashes. The three counties also account for 32 percent of impaired crashes.

"We'll be looking for anyone driving impaired, driving distracted or driving aggressively," said Sgt. Kyle Christensen of the Boise Police Department.

And Sgt. Matt Pavelek of the Nampa Police Department said his colleagues will be equipped with laser equipment to detect if some motorists are driving too close to one another.

"For those to drive in an unsafe manner like tailgating, they risk a ticket," said Pavelek, who added the three-second rule should be used by drivers to keep a reasonable and safe following distance.

Law enforcement in Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell, the Ada County and Canyon County Sheriff's offices, and the Idaho State Police will all be stepping up with extra law enforcement patrols this summer.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Times-News: Officials Lobbying for Canada-Mexico Interstate to Run Through South Idaho

Posted By on Sun, May 18, 2014 at 11:46 AM

U.S. 93, in red, runs from Arizona, through Nevada, Idaho and Montana before entering Canada. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • U.S. 93, in red, runs from Arizona, through Nevada, Idaho and Montana before entering Canada.

You won't find Interstate 11 on any map, but it is on the minds of economic development officials from Phoenix to Las Vegas and, now, Twin Falls.

Set to link Mexico and Canada, the only portion of the highway approved by Congress is the corridor between Phoenix and Las Vegas, which was designated in the 2012 federal transportation bill. According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, signs have already gone up on U.S. 93 marking it as the "Future 11 Corridor."

Where the road goes from Las Vegas is up for debate, and the Twin Falls Times-News reports that officials in Southern Idaho are hoping they can convince transportation authorities to route the $20-million-per-mile highway through the Gem State.

Members of the Twin Falls City Council, County Commission and Transportation Committee have drafted a letter of support for extending Interstate 11 up U.S. 93 to where it connects with Interstate 84. From Twin Falls, U.S. 93 runs north along the Craters of the Moon National Park, past Borah Peak and along the Salmon-Challis, Bitterroot and Lolo national forests before reaching Missoula, Mont.

The Times-News  reports that planners are looking at several possible routes north of Las Vegas, including to Reno, then Eugene, Ore., and another to Reno, then Winnemucca, Nev., through Eastern Oregon and on to Portland, Ore.  

Twin Falls officials want to see a third option bring the interstate from Las Vegas to Ely, Nev., then Twin Falls. According to figures from White Pine County commissioners in Nevada, and quoted by the Times-News, that route is more than 300 miles shorter than the Las Vegas-to-Eugene alignment and would save about $6.5 billion.

Despite the enthusiasm, Interstate 11 is a long ways off—though the Phoenix-Las Vegas section was made a federal priority in 2012, construction has yet to begin. Work on the northern portion is almost certainly more than a decade away.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Video: ACHD Hosts Open House on Mini Roundabout

Posted By on Thu, May 15, 2014 at 2:41 PM

The Ada County Highway District has been putting a lot of changes into motion when it comes to the streets of downtown Boise. With a pilot project installing buffered bicycle lanes and a plan to change some one-ways into two-ways, the agency is also going to be placing several mini roundabouts throughout the downtown core—the first of which will be installed at the intersection of Third and Bannock streets.

ACHD hosted an open house at the Boise Public Library May 14 to gain feedback from the public on the plan; and, while implementation of the mini roundabout is already set in stone, feedback from the public could lead to design changes in the final layout. Construction is due to begin in September and estimated to be finished in December of 2014. 
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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Valley Regional Transit to Propose More Frequency to Boise Bus Routes

Posted By on Sat, May 3, 2014 at 10:15 AM

In the current issue of Boise Weekly, we examine 11 ambitious proposals laid out before the Boise City Council as part of the city's increased sustainable initiatives (BW, News, "A Sustainable Boise? City Hall Prepares for Its Next Big Steps," April 30, 2014). One of the highest profile efforts proposes big changes to the region's transportation system.

As part of the sustainability proposals, officials with Valley Regional Transit will stand before the council this Tuesday, May 6, to brief lawmakers on a number of possible changes, including:

Expanding service to 10 p.m. on a number of key routes, including State Street, Fairview, Emerald, Vista, Parkcenter and Overland. This would cost $75,000 per year.

The No. 2 Broadway Route (serving St. Luke's Medical Center, Julia Davis Park, Boise State University, Federal Way and the neighborhoods in and around Timberline High School):

- Restoring up to three trips in the afternoon peak on the Broadway route, in order to serve students and other commuters. The cost would be $75,264 per year.

The No. 3 Vista Route (serving the Boise Airport, retailers around Vista, Boise State University, Julia Davis Park, the Boise Library and Downtown Boise):

-Adding more 30-minute frequency, to improve on-time transfers to the No. 1 Parkcenter route, costing $301,056 per year.

The No. 7 Fairview Route (serving Downtown Boise, retail on Fairview, the offices of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Capital High School and the Towne Square mall):

-Enhance service to create a 30-minute headway on Fairview, by adding an additional bus to the route all day, leaving every half-hour from downtown. The bus that departs at 45 minutes after the hour would serve the Town Square mall and the bus that departs at 15 minutes after the hour would serve a number of neighborhoods, including Ustick and Cole. The option would cost $301,056 per year.

In the shadow of the recession, changes were made to a number of VRT bus routes, which resulted in the elimination of some service, but transportation planners now want to return to the council with what it calls a "cafeteria plan" of service enhancement options to increase productivity and coverage.

The proposals from Valley Regional Transit will be presented during an afternoon City Council work session.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

New Bike Lanes And Boxes Make Debut on Capitol Blvd., Main And Idaho Streets

Posted By on Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 10:53 AM

The right way: A vehicle correctly stopped before a bike box. - ACHD
  • ACHD
  • The right way: A vehicle correctly stopped before a bike box.
The wrong way: A vehicle incorrectly at rest in the middle of a bike box. - ACHD
  • ACHD
  • The wrong way: A vehicle incorrectly at rest in the middle of a bike box.

This writer lives on the Bench, and my bike commute to Boise Weekly headquarters at 523 Broad St. typically takes me east along the Greenbelt and north along Capitol Boulevard. After cutting through The Flicks parking lot, I then cross Myrtle Street and walk my bike north on the sidewalk along Sixth Street. This winding route is informed by convenience and safety concerns, since cyclists like me occupy an ambiguous position on busy thoroughfares like Capitol and can be difficult for motorists to see.

My commute changed today: I was able to ride along Capitol, across Myrtle, and make a right turn on Broad, shaving a few moments off my ride. That's because of a new bicycle lane on Capitol that is wider, buffered and clearly marked with green paint. In addition to the lane, so-called "bike boxes"—extensions of the bike lane that place turning cyclists ahead of traffic at major intersections—have been added to Capitol, as well as Main and Idaho streets. Each new bike lane removes one existing vehicle lane.

Bike boxes have been used in Portland, Ore., Chicago and New York City as a way to reduce car vs. bike accidents. Putting cyclists in front of cars at intersections gives them greater visibility where turning cars and direction changes can create hazards. 

These cyclist-friendly changes are part of an Ada County Highway District pilot program kicking off Thursday, May 1. For at least a month, ACHD will be monitoring bike traffic along these roads to determine their popularity and effectiveness, but the public is also encouraged to participate in an online survey to provide it with more information here

A map of the new bike routes through downtown Boise - KELSEY HAWES
  • Kelsey Hawes
  • A map of the new bike routes through downtown Boise
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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Amtrak Empire Rolling Again Following Derailment, Passenger Injury

Posted By on Tue, Apr 29, 2014 at 10:00 AM

The Amtrak Empire, the only daily passenger train that regularly rolls through Idaho, resumed its journey early this morning, after Monday's derailment, which injured one and derailed travel plans for 117 other passengers.

The Empire, which runs from Seattle to Chicago and is already known as the worst on-time train in the Amtrak fleet (which basically means that it is rarely on schedule), partially derailed in northeastern Montana after two cars slipped off the tracks at a switch.

The injured passenger was taken to a nearby hospital.

The Empire makes one daily Idaho stop, in Sandpoint, in the pre-dawn hours.

The Associated Press reports this morning that the train was upright Monday evening and resumed its journey early today. But, you guessed it, as many as seven other trains were delayed while repairs were made.

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