Forest Roads Of Concern - Mixed Use Safety Review

Roads of Concern Photo 1  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BACKGROUND:  

In 2009, Idaho Senate Bill 1098 modified the Idaho Code with respect to off-highway vehicle (OHV) licensing requirements.  While responsible OHV recreation is welcome on National Forest System roads, this new law changed OHV operator licensing requirements by allowing any person under the age of (16) years to operate an OHV on all federal lands open to such use.  Motorized use designations on National Forests in Idaho were formed by the previous Idaho law thatprohibited OHV use by unlicensed drivers on roads open to passenger vehicles.  The National Travel Management Rule requires that mixed use safety be considered in designating roads for motorized use. 

In late 2010, Idaho Forests initiated motorized mixed use* safety reviews of the primary transportation system, with unlicensed OHV operators in mind, and identified roads that might require additional safety measures in order to allow continued OHV and passenger vehicle mixed use.  The identified road segments were referred to as “Roads of Concern” (ROC).  Trails designated for OHV use were unaffected by Senate Bill 1098.

In 2011, the Idaho legislature passed Senate Bill 1001 which requires underage operators on national forest roads to complete an OHV safety course.  This legislation is an important factor in completing the final risk analysis and will be one component of the Forest Service’s plan to mitigate mixed use risk while allowing continued OHV recreation on the vast majority of national forest roads.  (*Motorized Mixed Use is defined as designation of a National Forest System road for use by both highway legal and non-highway legal motor vehicles.)  

 

 Roads of Concern Photo 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ANALYSIS

On the Boise National Forest there are more than 4,100 miles of roads and trails currently open to OHV use. The roads of concern on the map link below includes 359 miles of roads that were evaluated for motorized mixed use safety.   Factors affecting the probability and severity of accidents include:

  • road geometry
  • sight distance
  • travel speeds
  • traffic volume
  • roadside obstacles
  • slopes
  • presence of unlicensed operators

Potential safety mitigations for these roads can range from brush removal for improved visibility, warning signs at strategic locations, or other engineering changes.  In cases where risks are unacceptable and cannot otherwise be mitigated, restricting OHV use remains an option.  (The map is a large file with a slow download.) 

 

(The map is a large file and will your patience while it downloads.) 

 Boise National Forest ROC map.

 

 

The Boise National Forest Heard from you!

Early in 2011 the Boise National Forest received public comments related to the Roads of Concern. The majority of comments expressed concern with restricting access, and many supported other mitigation measures.  A few comments identified mitigation options for specific roads of concern, or suggested additional roads of concern. 

 

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

The Boise National Forest identified just three roads that will need immediate action by the end of June, 2011.  The first is the South Fork Salmon River Road (FS RD 474) from its junction with Warm Lake Highway to the Payette NF border which will continue to have OHV restrictions.  The Middle Fork Payette River Road (FS RD 698) from its junction with the Silver Creek Road north to the Boiling Springs Cabin will have further evaluation once the snow melts with a recommendation developed by early June to mitigate the risk.  The third road is the North Fork Boise River Road (FS RD 327) from its junction with Highway 21 to Little Owl Creek which will also have further on-site evaluation with an early June recommendation.  Other roads of concern (150 miles) will have various mitigation measures taken to reduce risk by the end of 2012.  Anticipated mitigation includes improving site distance (brushing), installation of OHV and other warning signs, and/or minor road realignment. 

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.

 State of Idaho Parks and Recreation Class Schedules and Classes. 

 

Common Questions:

 Is adult supervision required of underage operators under the existing law?

The 2009 law requires underage drivers to be supervised by an adult when operating motorcycles or ATV’s on forest roads.  The 2011 law reinforces adult supervision by requiring the adult to be within (300) feet of the unlicensed operator, to provide close support, assistance or direction.  State law also requires riders younger than the age of 18 to wear helments.

 

Why can’t we just close these roads to underage drivers?

Because driver’s licenses are issued by the state, the agency cannot close roads only to underage drivers.  Instead roads may be restricted to specific types of vehicles.  Andy Brunelle, USFS Idaho State Coordinator said, “We can’t distinguish between operators.  We only have the ability to deal with the vehicle, which is why we are working hard with OHV groups to have training in place for underage operators. We would hate to restrict a road to all when it’s an issue of dealing with one sector.”  County roads still require operators to be aged 16 or older and they must have a driver’s license. 

 

Will changes in the types of vehicles allowed on roads be reflected in the Motor Vehicle Use Maps?

Yes.  The annual maps are updated and should reflect any changes in road restrictions.  Temporary vehicle restrictions that occur after MVUM publication may be posted on the ground rather than on the map.  Trails will not be affected by this proposal. 

 

How many public comments were received related to the Boise NF?

Approximately 60 comments were received.  The majority did not favor restricting vehicle use on roads.  Some cited concerns with the potential of losing a loop ride that had a combination of roads and trails.  Others felt it was the parent’s responsibility.  Some were concerned with economic impacts of potential less recreation use in the national forest.

 

How many roads were evalated State wide?

The agency initially evaluted some 7,700 miles of national forest roads used by passenger cars and trucks, focusing on 770 miles of ‘highway like’ roads that are either paved or two-lane with higher speed, volume, and mix of traffic.  Additional forest roads were recognized as roads of concern based on roadside character such as limited sight distances, blind curves, cliffs, or steep embankments.  Approximately 2500 miles of these these types of roads were initially idendified for further evalution. 

 

How many accidents have occurred involving ATVs?

On low volume roads, crash history is seldom a reliable direct indicator of significant safety problems.  Accident rate comparison formulas commonly used for high volume highways are not applicable to low volume roads because of the infrequency of crashes on any particular road.  The Idaho Transportation Department maintains a crash database that includes hundreds of ATV crashes across the state, many of which involve other vehicles.

Statewide, 550 accidents involving ATV’s have occurred in the past decade on all road types.

 

What next?

The Forest has already evaluated many of the roads of concern and determined that the risk of continued OHV mixed use is moderate or low.  These roads will remain open to OHV use as currently designated.  Mitigation and final evaluation of other roads will be initiated in late spring. 

 The Regional Forester has required each Forest Supervisor to submit an acton plan for review and approval.  These individual action plans include proposed evaluation and mitigation stragegies.  The Regional Forester’s approval of the action plan is contingent on the Forest commiting to address the highest risk roads immediately.  The Boise N F has identifed these highest priority roads and plans to work agressively to meet the Regional Forester’s expectations.  Many road issues may be mitigated this summer, while all necessary mitigation work is anticipated to be in place by the end of next year.





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