Travel tips for your Memorial Day plans

May 23, 2013 

Flaggers work along Idaho Highway 55 on a previous Memorial Day weekend. The Idaho Transportation Department will provide flaggers again on May 27 to ease traffic problems at Idaho 55's intersection with the Banks-Lowman highway.

PROVIDED BY ITD

After Thursday's low-30s weather, it may not feel like summer is near.

But the traditional kickoff to the summer recreation season is just two days away. AAA predicts 34.8 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from their homes at some point Thursday through Monday - down slightly from a year ago, but above the 12-year average. Eighty-nine percent of those travelers will drive; 7 percent will fly.

More than 164,000 Idahoans will hit the road during the extended weekend, according to AAA's forecast.

Before you head out for your trip, consider the following advice from state law enforcement and highway officials:

IDAHO SUSPENDS HIGHWAY WORK

Idaho Transportation Department projects that could affect travel Saturday, Sunday and Monday will be put on hold for those days, the agency reported.

Contractors can still operate on highway shoulders or anywhere else not impacting traffic. And, work will continue on some projects with special circumstances: if crews are not working on a roadway open to the public, if the road involved is already closed with traffic using a designated detour, if the work is to repair an emergency situation such as flooding, and if the road involved has a "very low" volume of traffic.

"Just like most of us, contractors have little interest in continuing to work over the holiday," ITD Chief Engineer Tom Cole said in a press release. "Most would probably take these days off anyway, even if it was not required."

FLAGGERS RETURN TO IDAHO 55 & BANKS

ITD will again help drivers with the bottleneck that Idaho Highway 55 north out of Boise can become.

Transportation officials asked Thursday that the public consider driving Idaho 55 outside of peak travel times or finding alternate routes, to ease the heaviest traffic there. Flaggers and electronic message boards will be posted Monday at the highway's junction with the Banks-to-Lowman Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway, as they have since 1995. An incident response vehicle will also be stationed at the junction.

Flaggers will start their work at 10 a.m. Monday and remain until traffic from the Banks-Lowman highway can safely enter Idaho 55 without aid. Expect delays of 10 minutes on Idaho 55 and 30 minutes if coming from Banks.

ITD advises that congestion at the intersection is usually the heaviest from 3-6 p.m. Monday afternoon. An alternate route using U.S. Highway 95 may actually be quicker on a congested day: Head north on Idaho 55 through McCall to the junction with U.S. 95, then take U.S. 95 south. Finally, use Interstate 84 to return to the Treasure Valley.

STATE POLICE OFFER DRIVING ADVICE

Idaho State Police say they counted 129 crashes on Idaho roads during the Memorial Day weekend in 2012, with 81 people injured and two people killed.

If you plan to travel this coming holiday weekend, police offer the following advice:

Wear your seatbelt: ISP and other law enforcement agencies are running a "Click It, Don't Risk It" seatbelt emphasis from May 20-June 2. If you have a child, make sure he or she is in an age-appropriate safety seat and that children under 12 are in the back seat.

Don't drink and drive: Designate a driver before you or anyone you're with drinks at a party or event. Nearly 30 people in the U.S. die each day due to a crash involving an alcohol-impaired driver, according to federal officials.

Plan your travel: It's a simple idea. If you plan enough time to get where you're going, you won't feel the need to speed, ignore traffic signals or take other risks. Slow down and leave early, ISP advises.

Stay alert: Get enough sleep before driving. Don't use your cellphone - especially for texting or typing. Texting while driving is now illegal statewide. Also, watch for motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians during your travels.

Move over when you see emergency workers: As wrecks or other incidents occur this weekend, it's likely you'll come across emergency vehicles with flashing lights on highway shoulders. Move over a lane to help first-responders work safely this weekend. It's good advice, and it's also the law.

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