UTAH

UDOT installing heat tape on traffic signals

Mar 7, 2023, 1:00 PM | Updated: 5:00 pm

UDOT Installs heat tape...

UDOT Installs heat tape (Marcus Hardy)

(Marcus Hardy)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Transportation is installing some heat tape on traffic signals across the state. This is in the hope to prevent snow from obscuring the lights at intersections. 

The problem

UDOt normally manually clears the snow from the traffic lights with a toilet brush-like tool. It’s been the go-to method, but the department feels it was time-consuming and somewhat dangerous. UDOT’s traffic signal operations engineer, Mark Taylor, explained that sending technicians with ice scrapers up to 20 feet in the air in the middle of traffic was risky.

“We have been looking at ways to prevent snow buildup on traffic signals for years now — it has been more of an issue since the change to brighter, more energy-efficient LED signal lights,” said Taylor.

The solution

UDOT experimented with preventing snow buildup on traffic signals a few years ago. As a result, UDOT collaborated to create the heat tape. The tape can be remotely turned on and off during weather when unnecessary.

UDOT has installed the devices on more than 450 signals. It’s been prioritizing lights that face north and west, as these lights tend to get more snow. Heat tape is actively being installed in Cache, Davis, Utah, Salt Lake, and Iron counties.

The tape looks like a cap that sits under the hood of the traffic lights.

The department has 67 intersections ready to go and will continue the rollout throughout 2023.

The cost

“The cost for one traffic signal head, including materials only, is around $250,” said UDOT’s John Gleason. “The installation process is labor-intensive and takes a couple of hours.”

Gleason said the department was hoping lawmakers would provide additional funding for the project, but it did not.

UDOT is working on keeping costs down when installing the tape by connecting it to the spare wires in the signal head since the tape is powered by electricity. It’s turned on a few hours before a storm and remains on until the storm is done.

Gleason said the cost to operate one heater is $0.32 per hour and $.97 per day. So if you have three lights per intersection, the cost to run them for 24 hours is approximately $3.

UDOT’s groundbreaking tech

UDOT’s heat-tape application is a first for any department of transportation nationwide. Gleason said it works well in most conditions and integrates into existing traffic light wiring.

In addition, the tape eliminates the need to manually clear snow and ice. And by doing so, the tape improves driver visibility and safety during severe weather.

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UDOT installing heat tape on traffic signals