UDOT’s snow plow spending is down. What does that mean for spring projects?

Feb 6, 2024, 12:56 PM | Updated: 1:42 pm

A snow plow travels through Big Cottonwood Canyon, clearing roads...

FILE- Utah Department of Transportation plows snow in Big Cottonwood Canyon. (Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News)

(Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News)

SALT LAKE CITY— Last year’s record winter was like no other for Utahns, including those who braved icy roads to make sure they were clear for drivers. The Utah Department of Transportation said its snow plow spending has been lower this year. 

“It was an everyday type of situation out there,” said John Gleason, UDOT’s public relations director. “It was a historic year and one that we’d never seen before.”

Gleason told KSL Newsradio that UDOT’s snow plow spending is usually about $27 million per winter plowing snow. They allocate about $1 million per storm, with the plan they’ll have to work about 30 storms in a season.

Last year, however, UDOT spent around $42 million to keep the roads clear. 

All of that money comes from their maintenance fund, which encompasses far more work than plowing snow. According to Gleason, when they go over budget, they can move money around to make sure they prioritize plowing and filling potholes since they are safety concerns.

When UDOT has to shift funds, they typically come from the budgets for ‘non-essential’ projects.

Gleason said those projects include drainage work. UDOT helps keep water off of the roads so they don’t get damaged.

Another example is trimming vegetation off the sides of Utah’s roads. The shoulder work keeps the roads clear, while also helping mitigate wildfire risk. Some paving projects also fall under this umbrella.

When UDOT shattered its budget allocation last year, it had to put some less essential work on the back burner.

This year has been different… at least so far

“[These projects] are really important and it’s critical for us to get that work done,” Gleason said.

This year, UDOT might get their wish. By the end of January, Gleason said they had spent about $11 million to plow and salt the roads. The typical five-year average by this time is about $13 million. That’s about 15% below the five-year average.

If they stay at or below their snow removal budget, Gleason said they’ll have more money left to do more non-essential roadwork.

“If we don’t exceed the snow removal budget…that’s great news,” Gleason said.

However, whether or not this happens is still fully dependent on whatever snow Mother Nature delivers for the rest of winter. And she still has the floor until at least April.

Related: Snowplows struggle to clear Utah roads amid storm, but you can help

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UDOT’s snow plow spending is down. What does that mean for spring projects?