With construction season underway, the District 1 Idaho Transportation Department reminds drivers to use caution in work zones.
Mike Lenz, ITD transportation staff engineering assistant, said nine people — including three in North Idaho — died in work zone crashes last year in Idaho.
Two of those fatalities occurred on U.S. 95, with the other on Interstate 90, according to Megan Sausser in ITD’s communications office.
“That number is pretty high in my opinion,” Lenz said. “It’s nine too many. Our goal is to keep that number at zero.”
He said many of those deaths were due to distracted driving. Lenz implored drivers to put down their phones, food and other distractions when behind the wheel.
“The best thing people can do is just be alert and read all the signs,” he said. “We put messages up that indicate everything going on in a work zone.”
Upcoming construction projects along a stretch of I-90 from Northwest Boulevard to Ninth Street and repairs to the Kingston Bridge might affect work commutes, Lenz said.
“People get in a system of when they wake up, and how they go to work,” he said. “Those routines may have to be adjusted.”
On average, 87,000 vehicles travel along the Post Falls-Coeur d’Alene I-90 corridor each day during the summer months, according to Lenz.
He hopes that by providing the public with additional knowledge of area projects, drivers will be more cautious in their daily travel.
“The facts show that the more the public knows about a certain project, the safer their driving habits are in that work zone,” Lenz said.
ITD will also begin multiple long-term projects in the coming months, including repairs to the Blue Creek Bay Bridge and Oldtown Bridge, as well as added pedestrian facilities in Bonners Ferry.
The city of Coeur d’Alene will soon begin construction on Government Way between Hanley and Prairie, Lenz said. He expects that to have a significant impact on highway traffic.
“It’s all one big system,” he said. “We (ITD and city construction units) pay attention to each other — it’s kind of like one big puzzle.”
Lenz reminded drivers that although construction can be frustrating, in the long run it improves transportation conditions.
“It’s a temporary inconvenience,” he said, “but it benefits everybody in the long-term.”