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Winter weather creates challenges for road crews


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SALT LAKE COUNTY -- Cold temperatures were a rude awakening for plenty of people in Utah Monday morning, and icy roads caught some motorists by surprise. This can be a chaotic time for drivers as well as the people who work on the roads.

There's still a lot of road construction going on this fall. Road crews across the state must balance fall construction with keeping the roads clear of ice and snow. The bottom line is we all need to stay alert on the road.

A trucker took a terrifying tumble this morning at Parley's Summit on Interstate 80. State troopers say the semi hit a patch of ice as it approached the summit and rolled into Summit Park. Emergency crews cut the driver out with the Jaws of Life, but he will survive.

Lt. Randall Richey, with the Utah Highway Patrol, said, "Quite frankly, it's amazing he survived with the crush damage to that vehicle coming off that hill."

In the months ahead, UDOT will put more workers in plows and have fewer construction jobs in progress.

Jason Davis, UDOT Region 2 deputy director, said, "It absolutely presents more challenges to do construction during the winter."

Concrete paving projects, like the I-80 expansion in Salt Lake City, the express lanes expansion on I-15 in North Salt Lake and widening of 11400 South will continue; but asphalt does not spread well in the cold.

"We've been wrapping up our asphalt projects, for the most part, and trying to wrap up our concrete paving projects, as well," Davis said.

UDOT will make sure guardrails and striping are up to standards as they shift motorists onto new pavement. They don't want any confusion for drivers as bad weather arrives.

"Any place that people are traveling on our state roads, it's in a very safe condition, and very easy for them to understand the different markings and where they're going to be traveling," Davis said.

Crews will actually complete the I-80 project by Thanksgiving, before the brunt of winter arrives. But productivity drops with the temperatures, shorter days and snow-covered roads.

Davis said, "The roads could be fine in the valley, but when you're going up and over some of these mountaintops, you could easily hit some icy conditions."

So, take it easy, and keep in mind some road projects will carry on through the winter months, with crews tackling whatever they can as the weather allows.

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com

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Jed Boal

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