OHV Riding & Camping

Forest Roads - Mixed Use Safety Review

 

Background
 

In 2009, Idaho Senate Bill 1098 exempted underage (less than 16 years old) drivers of off-highway vehicle (OHV) on Forest Service (FS) roads from licensing requirements. Previously, Idaho law prohibited use of OHVs by unlicensed riders on roads open to passenger vehicle traffic. The National Travel Management Rule requires that public safety be considered in designating roads for motorized use. The 2009 change in Idaho law triggered concern by FS leadership for the safety of all users on roads that are now open to unlicensed operators under Idaho law. As a result, Idaho national forests were directed to evaluate road safety through an analysis conducted by qualified engineers. The Payette National Forest (PNF) has completed the first phase of this analysis and has identified “roads of concern” on the forest.

After passage of SB 1098, the FS worked with OHV user groups and developed legislation to require safety training and certification of underage/unlicensed OHV drivers. The proposal (House Bill 706/Senate Bill 1001) was approved by both the State House and Senate in early April.

Information about training opportunities for OHV drivers that are under the age of 16 is available on the Idaho Parks & Recreation website at http://parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/recreation/ohveducation.aspx

 

Initial Safety Review

 

ROC identified on the PNF OHV road hazard assessment were evaluated and information was shared with local government leaders, OHV user groups and the general public early in 2011 via public meetings, the PNF website, and briefings.

During the initial safety analysis a variety of factors affecting the probability and severity of accidents were evaluated. These factors included road geometry, sight distance, travel speeds, traffic volume, roadside obstacles and slopes, and the presence of unlicensed operators. The PNF identified 271 miles as preliminary “roads of concern” (ROC) that have relative risk ratings of moderate, high, or very high.

Forests have up to four years to conduct a more detailed safety analysis and develop an action plan to mitigate safety concerns. Potential mitigations range from reduced speed limits, brush removal for improved visibility, warning signs, or other minor engineering changes. In cases where risks cannot be mitigated, OHV use may be restricted. Restrictions would be used as a last resort when no other reasonable and effective safety measures can be implemented.

 

The initial hazard assessment yielded the following relative risk ratings for these roads:

• Very High – 72.4 Miles
• High – 116.6 Miles
• Moderate – 82.7 miles

Based on the direction provided by the FS and the results provided by the hazard assessment tool, the PNF decided to take the following actions for the ROC :

 

  • Continue existing restrictions to OHV traffic on 25.4 miles of very high risk road.

 

  • Existing restrictions to OHV use on two segments of the South Fork of the Salmon River Road and the portion of Goose Lake Road between Highway 55 and Brundage Mountain Resort will remain in effect. These roads were restricted because of their paved surface, relatively high speeds, poor sight distance, and seasonally high traffic counts. A 2.1 mile section of the South Fork Road will remain open to OHV use to maintain the existing connection between portions of the Buckhorn/Jakie Creek Trail, a popular OHV loop. The sight distance on this portion of road is better than that found on the remainder of the road and mitigation in the form of signing will be put in place prior to the beginning of the heavy use season.

 

  • Request Regional Forester Exemption on the remaining 47.0 miles of very high risk road (four road segments). Further evaluation and mitigation will be completed on these segments by June 30, 2011. Restrictions on these roads could be implemented via a Forest Supervisor Order this field season if risks cannot be lowered after field verification and mitigation has been completed. The Regional Forester approved the requested exemptions pending further evaluation by forest engineering staff.

 

  • Perform further evaluation on 116.6 miles of high risk road. Evaluation will be completed by the end of the 2011 field season and future restrictions will be considered if warranted. Signage and other public information tools will be utilized to raise awareness and further reduce risks on these roads.

 

OHV and rider

 

Update -  Actions Taken this Past Field Season


Throughout the winter and spring of 2011 the Payette National Forest Engineering Section worked closely with agency partners and members of the public to improve public safety plans for identified National Forest System Roads of Concern. Public input was used to help identify where, and what types of safety improvements could be made for each of these roads. During the summer of 2011 PNF personnel undertook additional analysis and implemented mitigations on the roads of highest concern.

 The PNF performed additional evaluation and mitigation on approximately 80 miles of road that were rated Very High or High this past summer. Of these 80 miles, all were downgraded to Moderate based on refined field evaluations and mitigation work that included signage and brushing of the roadway to increase sight distance. 25.4 miles of road rated at Very High were closed to OHV traffic before this analysis began and are no longer included on the ROC list.

sign and excavator

Current road ratings for mixed use roads on the PNF are now:

• Extreme – 0.0 Miles
• Very High – 0 Miles (decrease of 72.4)
• High – 83.2 Miles (decrease of 33.4)
• Moderate – 139.5 miles (increase of 56.8)
• Low – 0.0 Miles


2012 Action Plan



• The remaining 83.2 miles of road with a high rating will be evaluated and mitigated as necessary through the 2012 field season. Based on our experience in 2011, the Forest feels confident that the field reviews along with some minimal mitigation work will result in all remaining ROC being downgraded to a Moderate rating.

• We will continue to install informational signage at high use trailheads and popular OHV unloading areas to raise awareness of the risks associated with mixed use traffic and to provide other OHV related safety information.

• The forest will continue to use a variety of other public information tools to raise awareness of the risks associated with mixed use traffic.
 

Roads of Concern Maps


 
On the Payette National Forest there are more than 1800 miles of roads and trails currently open to OHV use. The roads of concern on the maps below include 271 miles of road that were evaluated during the last year for safety improvements. These are the types of roads where the PNF is most concerned for the safety of drivers and operators of off-road vehicles as speeds are faster and drivers of passenger and other vehicles are not expecting to share the road with OHVs.  Potential safety mitigations for these roads range from reduced speed limits, brush removal for improved visibility, warning signs, speed bumps, or other minor engineering changes. This review will not effect non-motorized use such as hiking, horseback riding, or bicycling on forest roads. This safety review concerns only mixed-use motorized travel where there is a concern for the safety of underage OHV drivers who could be sharing the road with logging trucks, recreational vehicles, passenger vehicles, and road construction equipment, some traveling at speeds greater than 25 miles per hour.  Please refer to the links below for more detailed information.

 

Maps:

 

Roads of Concern - East Side
Roads of Concern - West Side

Region 4 Press Release
Briefing Paper with Q & A

 

What can forest visitors expect on NFS roads in the future?
 

During the next few years the Payette National Forest will work closely with our partners and members of the public to improve public safety on National Forest System roads. In situations where the scope and complexity of the needed safety measures is too great, temporary restrictions may be implemented until effective safety measures can be installed. Examples might include stretches of road where additional trail construction or significant road construction is needed to effectively improve safety.

The US Forest Service defers to state law to determine licensing and training requirements for OHV operators on National Forest System lands. Our agency will continue to adapt to changes in state law and ensure that safety measures on National Forest System roads effectively provide a safe experience for all forest visitors.