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ITD addresses concerns

by JOSH MCDONALD
Local Editor | August 10, 2022 12:44 PM

MULLAN –– In the wake of a fatal accident on Interstate 90 last week, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is ramping up their efforts in order to keep the roads as safe as possible.

On August 4, a passenger vehicle and dump truck collided near milepost 64 – right in the middle of one of the narrowest stretches of road construction in North Idaho – closing down the major highway for several hours.

The driver of the passenger vehicle was ejected and died instantly, while the driver of the dump truck and passenger of the van survived – albeit with injuries.

According to the Idaho State Police, the preliminary investigation shows the van was headed west and ended up in the lane that had been designated for eastbound traffic. No evidence indicates that the van was trying to pass another vehicle, but simply drifted into the other lane.

This incident came just a few days after a truck pulling a camper was caught on video attempting to pass another vehicle as a semi truck was making its way the other direction – nearly resulting in another head-on collision, had it not been for the evasive driving of the semi truck's driver.

Both of these incidents occurred in the same area resulting in more than a few locals having cried foul, stating that they do not believe that the crews working on the projects have enough deterrents in place to keep people safe.

The main issue that was voiced, especially on social media, was a lack of cones and adequate signage through the area to keep drivers attention.

However, the road is very clearly marked with a double yellow line, which signifies a no passing zone.

In theory, both the cones being placed down the center lane and the double yellow lines should lead drivers to the same conclusion, it appears that the lack of cones was tempting some drivers to test their luck. By that same token, some have stated that the lack of cones downplays the seriousness of the need for extra attentive driving through the congested section of work.

Megan Jahns, ITD’s communications manager, told the News-Press on Tuesday that her department has heard the concerns and is doing their best to address them.

Jahns explained that prior to both incidents, there were already clearly placed signs warning drivers that they were entering a no-passing zone, but since last Thursday the amount of signage in the area has increased.

“We already had more signs in that area than what is standard, but now we’re adding even more,” Jahns said.

In addition to the extra no-passing zone signs, Jahns said that ITD has deployed the glued-down candlestick cones to the center line to more clearly divide to two lanes and the speed limit has been reduced to 45 miles per hour through the construction zone.

While ITD is doing their part to make sure that the construction zone is being managed safely, Jahns also mentioned that safety is truly in the hands of those behind the wheel.

“Anytime we have an incident, and in this case a fatal incident, we stop to evaluate what we’re doing and make sure that we’re doing enough, or to see if there’s more that we can do,” Jahns said. “But ultimately, safety is going to come down to the decision that drivers make on the road. We’ve seen a lot of near-misses through this work zone from people not practicing patience, in a hurry to get through and around people on the road – so regardless of the outcome, we’re seeing a lot of this where people are illegally trying to pass in a no-passing zone. At that speed, in this work zone, driver error can be deadly. We need people to slow down and pay attention to the signage.”

With the speed changes in the area, Jahns advises anyone who may be traveling I-90, to give themselves an extra 15 to 30 minutes for their drives

As of Tuesday, all of ITD’s projects along I-90 remain on schedule.

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