ITD continues working to reopen Highway 95 near Riggins

Posted at 4:03 PM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 12:11:50-04

ITD tells us the alternate road they are preparing around the rock slide will not open this weekend, but it could be open on Monday.

A massive rockslide nearly three weeks ago closed Highway 95 south of Riggins.

The Idaho Transportation Department was able to open the highway for one day, but then an even larger rockslide came crashing down.

ITD tells us there is a possibility that they will be able to open the highway this weekend, but that still depends on the stability of the mountain slope.

"We hope to open it as soon and as safely as possible," said Megan Sausser of ITD. "That maybe this weekend, but always check 511 for updates."

This week ITD has worked to clear boulders and debris covering the main highway that connects northern Idaho to southern Idaho in the western part of the state.

"Some of those rocks are 40 feet wide, and that is bigger than a lot of our equipment," said Megan Sausser of ITD. "Crews have spent a lot of time this week basically building trails to get to the biggest rocks so we can start drilling holes in them and blasting them."

However, technology is helping in this remote area as Verizon Wireless brought in specialized equipment to give ITD crews a cell phone signal helping improve communication and safety.

"Any time we've bee doing work underneath the face of the slide, we have had active surveyors up their watching things as they are moving and then communicate that out," said Sausser. "We did see where that came in handy when that second slide happened, we told the crew to get out of there, and within 24 hours that second slide came down."

Safety has been paramount following this force of nature, and there no been no injuries reported by ITD personnel or the public.

The Idaho Transportation Department has had an alternative route as they opened Old Pollock Road to single-lane traffic from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Rockslides have happened in this area before, but none on this scale, so ITD is also working on a long-term solution to keep travelers moving while at the same time ensuring safety in this rugged area.

Another reason ITD gave us for working to reopen the road is to provide wildfire crews with a route to get equipment and firefighters through this area in the case of a wildfire.

We expect to receive an update on Friday.