UDOT hoping to save money by saving salt

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The Utah Department of Transportation hopes better planning and early preparation for the storm season will save the state millions of dollars.

Last year the agency was forced to operate far beyond its snow removal budget, and this year there's much less wiggle room. UDOT officials think conserving salt may be the answer when it comes to saving money.

Utah was battered by more than the average 25 storms last year, and UDOT exceeded its snow-removal budget by $8 million.

UDOT hoping to save money by saving salt

It was an unexpected hiccup, but surplus made it much easier to provide funding. This year, it's a different story.

"We can't look to go over that because if we do, the only way that we can fund it is to take money from other projects," said UDOT maintenance engineer Rich Clarke.

Clarke says the agency is now planning ahead, and the biggest changes are being made in the way crews use salt. "At least half of the salt that we may use for a normal year is already in place."

UDOT hoping to save money by saving salt

Much of the 100,000 tons of salt comes from the Great Salt Lake and is being stored at 50 sheds across the state. UDOT began stockpiling salt in August to avoid peak-season competition.

The next step is conservation. UDOT plans to use more brine solution to pre-treat roads, a technique that will save the amount of salt used after the storm hits.

Another new trick: wetting all the salt before it goes in the trucks. "That way, when the salt hits the road, it will be wet and will stick to the road, versus bouncing off, and help us to conserve on salt," Clarke said.

But UDOT officials say no matter what winter brings, when it comes to staying within the budget, it totally depends on the weather.

This year's snow removal budget has been increased to $22 million. UDOT will likely need to buy more salt before the winter is over, but fortunately for us, we get much of our salt for about 50 percent cheaper than our neighboring states.

E-mail: wjohnson@ksl.com

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