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Plow drivers needed, but UDOT says the storm itself was the source of Monday commute delay


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SALT LAKE CITY — During the Monday night commute, many drivers were struggling to get where they were going in the snowstorm on surface streets and on the interstate. The next morning, drivers ran into more delays with additional lake effect snowfall.

Was it staffing issues or the was the storm itself at the source of the traffic troubles?

A spokesman with the Utah Department of Transportation said staffing was not an issue for the department during this storm.

"The last 24 hours, we've seen a lot of snow fall on the roads, but it's not necessarily the amount of snow, it's the timing of the storm," John Gleason said.

Monday night, it was slow going on I-215 in the east direction, as well as the East Bench surface streets, Mountain View Corridor, and I-15, especially at Point of the Mountain.

"Last night (Monday), we saw traffic at a standstill at Point of the Mountain on I-15 and also on Mountain View Corridor."

But, Gleason said, staffing was not a problem Monday.

"It was more the timing of the snowfall and the temperatures," Gleason said.

When the snow is coming down, at a rate of an inch an hour or more, the plows simply cannot keep the roads cleared. When the snow is piling up that rapidly right in the middle of the commute, that slows traffic even more.

"Once you get one or two slide offs or fender benders, that can really snarl traffic," the UDOT spokesman said.

But UDOT still wants to hire more drivers to fully staff all stations, especially for storms that last over several days. Gleason said that's when staffing issues may cause problems for them.

Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County also hope to hire more plow drivers, but officials still feel like they are able to get the job done in an acceptable amount of time.

"It slows us down a bit like you would think it would," said Dan Sommer, Salt Lake County district manager of operations. "But we just ask the public to give us a little patience, and we'll get there as soon as we can, as safely as we can."

Salt Lake County is down five snowplow drivers, more than it was last year. But the county is already training some new drivers.

"It might take us a little bit longer, but we'll get through all of the areas per storm," Sommer said.

Salt Lake City has enough drivers to get all streets cleared within 36 hours of the storm, but city leaders want to hire more drivers and get that job done in 24 hours.

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Jed Boal

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