UDOT has $22 million budgeted for snow removal

Nov 13 2011 - 9:04pm


(Standard-Examiner file photo) Sand is loaded for snowplow during a storm in 2010.
(Standard-Examiner file photo) Sand is loaded for snowplow during a storm in 2010.

LAYTON -- With winter weather here, the state's snow removal team is waiting in the wings to clear it, and when they do, it will cost a pretty penny.

According to figures from the Utah Department of Transportation, the state's snow removal budget is set this year at $22 million.

The budget includes every piece of the snow removal outfit: equipment, salaries, sand, salt, brine and avalanche control explosives.

UDOT spokeswoman Tania Mashburn says the state employs 503 full-time snowplow drivers and has 85 seasonal staff members on its snow removal team.

Last year's snow removal operation costs were $22.5 million. The winter before that, it was $22 million.

UDOT Region One spokesman Vic Saunders said the state plans its snow removal budget very methodically.

"We plan our budget based on historical data that we have and then what is forecast for the winter," he said. "We have an entire team dedicated to it, to be as precise as we can be. Winter weather can be unpredictable, but we have a lot of tools to help us forecast what the winter will be like."

UDOT hasn't exceeded its snow removal budget for several years, but it can happen. When it does, other scheduled road projects, mostly minor work, can be delayed.

"Snow removal is the priority," Saunders said. "And if we do have a very big winter season and go over our budget, that could impact certain maintenance improvements that were scheduled."

Although cities and counties plow the roads they own, UDOT is responsible for plowing most of the larger roads because they are owned by the state.

In Weber County UDOT plows Harrison Boulevard, Washington Boulevard and Wall Avenue.

In Davis County, the state plows large and busy roads like Center Street, Main Street and Highway 89.

In UDOT's Region One -- which includes Davis, Weber, Morgan, Box Elder, Cache and Rich counties -- 105 snow plows maintain 2,655 lane-miles of pavement.

Saunders said snow removal teams are ready when the first flake hits the ground.

"Snow removal must be done because it plays such a serious role in our transportation system," he said. "If we let the snow and ice sit on our roads, it will end up costing us a lot of money to do maintenance and repairs."

Weber and Davis counties pay for their snow removal out of a general road fund that includes items besides snow removal, such as pothole repairs.

Davis County estimates it will spend $1.2 million from the roads fund by the time 2011 is out, while Weber County estimates $772,312.

Weber County has 14 drivers and operators and Davis County has 20.

Kirk Schmalz, Davis County Public Works director, said when his crews are finished with county roads, they help plow in individual cities when they can.

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