The following is guest post written by Vic Saunders, Public Involvement Manager for all of Northern Utah including Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Morgan, Rich and Weber Counties.

A roadway in northern Utah that UDOT is the subject of many questions from the public.  It’s named after something that many people would never associate with Utah.  Or at least many of us think it is.

U.S. Highway 89/91, which runs from Brigham City to Wellsville, is commonly known to many in the state as Sardine Canyon.  Lots of folks from Ogden, Salt Lake City and points south remember using this highway to visit a relative in Cache Valley, or while attending Utah State University.  You say Sardine Canyon and they know just what you mean.

Some people believe the name came from early travelers eating sardines as part of a picnic lunch on their way to Cache Valley back in the early 1900′s.  They surmise that the packaging may have been left by the side of the road, someone else saw it and, hence, a name was born.  Another account says the name came from the original road being steep and narrow, and to pass someone on the roadway located on the steep canyon ledge was a very tight undertaking, kind of the way sardines a packed in a tin.

But consult a geographical map and you’ll find the canyon the road follows is actually a series of three canyons.  Yes, there actually is a Sardine Canyon, just a few miles south of Wellsville Canyon, hugging the side of hills southwest of the locality known as Mt. Sterling.   In fact, Sardine Canyon is the original canyon many of early settlers used when traveling to Cache Valley during the 1860s.  But that canyon hasn’t been used for a highway since the 1950′s, and is rutted and difficult to use because there’s no longer any public access to it.  But despite all that, people still refer to the modern U.S. 89/91 as “Sardine Canyon.”

So, if today’s highway isn’t Sardine Canyon, then what is it?

First of all, it’s a highway that traverses three canyons.  As you leave I-15 and head east into Brigham City, U.S. 91 picks up U.S. 89 from the south and the two routes jointly enter the first of the three, which is Box Elder Canyon.  For about three miles Box Elder Canyon travels along its namesake creek, Box Elder Creek, before entering the little valley dominated by a farming community and reservoir, both of which are named Mantua (pronounced Man-a-way).

U.S. 91 Median Barrier, Dry Canyon to Sardine Summit

Upon leaving Mantua, motorists enter what is known as Dry Canyon. The next three miles marks a steep climb, past a famous winter tubing hill on the right and the ubiquitous “Midway Inn,” a former bar turned antiques shop, on the left, before arriving at the only place on today’s highway actually named like its “faux” namesake, Sardine Summit.  At 5,868 feet, Sardine Summit marks the dividing county line between Cache and Box Elder counties, and the beginning of the long downhill cruise toward the end of the route in Wellsville.

From Sardine Summit motorists drop quickly into Dry Lake, which is the focal point of an unnamed valley about a mile north of the summit.  Upon passing through the cut in the hill created for the new highway in the 1950′s, the original Sardine Canyon road is high above on the hillside to the right, where it snakes eastward.  From Dry Lake, travelers pass the Sherwood Hills resort and golf course on the left before entering Wellsville Canyon.

Passing the Wellsville Peak Wilderness trail head on the left, U.S. 89/91 dives into the canyon for the final two miles of the journey, before bursting into the open at its mouth near Mt. Sterling.  There one catches the vista of the Cache Valley, stretching almost as far as the eye can see.  Passing Wellsville on the left, Logan is now only another nine miles.  From there, U.S. 91 heads north to Idaho, while U.S. 89 turns east, making its way through Logan Canyon and the Bear River Range of the Rocky Mountains to Bear Lake.

It’s a beautiful trip that can be enjoyed in nice weather by either car or bicycle.  And now you know you’re not traveling there through one canyon but three.  And none of them are named Sardine.

March 16th, 2011


11 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.
    Do road improvement projects help the local economy?

    Reconstruction activity on 3500 South in West Valley City

    UDOT has asked experts to study the complicated relationship between the local economy and transportation projects.

    To find answers about how construction impacts local businesses, a team of BYU researchers reviewed other studies, identified key indicators of economic activity, established  statewide norms for each indicator and collected and analysed data from local areas.

    Three indicators — sales tax revenue, VMT, and employment — were identified. Data reflecting each indicator was collected from the vicinity of construction projects three years before and after construction. Local data was compared to statewide growth rates.

    Redwood Road sales tax collection, an example

    Sales tax has been shown to be an indicator of economic growth — more taxes collected mean more spirited economic activity. For the UDOT study, researchers looked at tax revenue growth around the construction zone compared to to the statewide rate.

    Positive trend

    This graph shows a positive trend in the growth of sales tax revenue when compared to the statewide rate.  Similar positive trends were observed when looking at other economic indicators– VMT and employment. While the results of the study are not conclusive, the numbers show that the relationship between road construction and economic activity is generally positive when compared to the statewide norm.

    The study adds to the body of knowledge about how transportation projects can help the local economy, but more study is needed.

    More information:

    The study, “Understanding the Economics of Transportation in Utah” is posted on the UDOT website.

    Read a newsletter article by UDOT Planning Director John Thomas.

March 14th, 2011


2 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.


New cattle guards are being tried in UDOT Region Four.

Workers install steel bars under the road surface.

Cattle guards are used on highway on and off-ramps to deter cattle and wildlife from entering the roadway. Traditional cattle guards that protrude from the road surface pose problems for snow plows. An old method of deterrence, painted-on guards, works for plows, but is only marginally effective for cattle and less so for wildlife. Painted-on guards are still present on some highways, but their use is no longer a UDOT standard practice.

The new electric guards are flush with the roadway and deliver a safe but deterrent shock to animals that approach. Signs and gates alongside the guards allow people escorting animals to avoid the crossing.

So far, the guards are working well. Here are some photos from installation sent by Dave Babcock, Fleet Manager at UDOT Region Four’s Price Office. Dave and others are monitoring the effectiveness of the guards. Updates will be posted on this blog.

After blocks are installed, concrete is poured.

Mats are bolted onto blocks.










More on wildlife crossings and Dave Babcock:

Appealing to Elk is a post about how UDOT partners with wildlife experts.

High Arch Gets High Praise is a post about construction of a new structure on I-70.

Dave wrote this post about the new Tie Fork Rest Area, a tribute to Utah’s railroad past.

March 10th, 2011


No Comments, Optimize Mobility, Preserve Infrastructure, by Catherine Higgins.


The following is a guest post written by Heather Johnson, Project Support Technician in UDOT’s Region Two.

Recently, senior leaders at Region Two compiled a document called the 2010 FACTS – Final Accomplishments, Challenges and Tactics Summary.

This report details the goals that each Region Two department has set for itself, and how those goals have been measured.

Each goal is set with the Utah Department of Transportation’s Strategic Goals, or Final Four, in mind:

  • Take care of what we have
  • Make the system work better
  • Improve safety
  • Increase capacity

The FACTS is a way for us at Region Two to track our progress on the goals we’ve set, as well as recognize our challenges, accomplishments and the areas in which we can improve.

Some of the goals and measures you will find in the FACTS include the following:

  • Safety: Reduce fatalities on state highways by 10% each year
  • Hydraulics: Complete work on time and under budget within 10%
  • Project Management: Advertise at least 85% of projects within seven days of the committed advertisement date
  • Administration: Process each invoice within 30 days of the invoice date.

Region Two is comprised of Tooele, Salt Lake and Summit counties, which have some of the fastest growing populations in Utah.  In order to keep delays to a reasonable level, Region Two will face the challenge of budgetary needs for new construction, capacity and maintenance.

The challenge to fund innovative solutions such as Accelerated Bridge Construction, Continuous Flow and ThrUturn Intersections is another that Region Two and the Department will have to face.

While every project UDOT completes is valuable to the traveling public, the following projects, which have each had a significant impact in Region Two, are highlighted in the FACTS:

  • 6200 South and Redwood Road Continuous Flow Intersection
  • I-15 Widening, 500 north to I-215
  • 11400 South; State Street to Bangerter, New I-15 Interchange

Concrete paving on I-15 -- a wider freeway has reduced delay for commuters that travel between Salt Lake and Davis County.

To learn more about Region Two’s 2010 FACTS check out the entire document, UDOT Region Two 2010 FACTS.

March 9th, 2011


1 Comment, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Utah wildlife management experts love this new structure under I-70.


High arch-crossing gets high marks for safety, and good looks.

Speaking for herself and other wildlife management experts, USU Assistant Professor Patricia Cramer calls this underpass crossing “our pride and joy.”  The new structure looks great and has good functionality as a wildlife crossing too.

Cramer is especially pleased that it’s been used by elk, who are difficult customers when it comes to crossings.  Read about elk using this crossing in a previous post: Appealing to Elk.

Randall Taylor, UDOT Design and Environmental Engineer is happy with the crossing too. He was involved with developing specifications for the high arch structure — the contractor designated the construction method and products used by Contech, a construction products company.

The crossing was built under I-70. Work was staged to allow traffic to be maintained during construction.

Here are some construction photos courtesy of Contech:

Workers place wire mesh that will reinforce concrete footings. The retaining wall on the right was built in five supported lifts.

A crane places a pre-formed concrete arch section on the footings.

Wing walls add structural support and also channel animals into the arch crossing.

According to an I-70 Wildlife Crossing summary of the project produced by Contech, “The CON/SPAN used on our I-70 Wildlife Crossing was great for this application,” said Lyndon Friant, UDOT Resident Engineer.  “It was installed quickly and effectively, allowing for minimal impact to the traveling public…”

Drill Lines

The following is a guest post written by Vic Saunders. Vic is the Public Involvement Manager for all of Northern Utah including Box Elder, Cache, Davis, Morgan, Rich and Weber Counties.

Throughout the fall, winter and spring we get asked regularly at UDOT, “What are these lines on the highway?” Some people wonder if they were caused when some kind of machinery was dragged down the road and left these lines in the pavement. Others wonder if it is some new kind of lane striping.

The truth is, these lines are known as “Drill Lines.” They are evidence that your local UDOT maintenance team has been out on the roadway preparing for an approaching winter storm. When UDOT weather forecasters tell us that a winter storm approaching the Beehive State is about 72 hours away, our maintenance crews hit the roads and spray a brine solution on the roadway. This solution helps prevent the snow from forming ice and sticking to the asphalt or concrete road surface like glue. If that happens, it is very difficult to remove and can be a factor in traffic movement and other incidents during and after the storm.

As the snow begins to fall, the moisture in it interacts with the brine solution sprayed on the road, and a liquid barrier is formed. This saline barrier helps prevent ice formation until our snow plows can get out there and plow it all away.

And what about those Drill Lines? The lines are sprayed on the roadway by the trucks laying down this brine solution. They are an indicator to the driver of the spraying vehicle that the spraying process is going well, and that the spray nozzles are working properly.

So, now you know! Those lines on the road are just further evidence that UDOT is working hard to make sure the roads are safe for Utah drivers.

March 7th, 2011


3 Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

Crossings protect wildlife and people, too.


Elk are usually universal refusers when it comes to underpass crossings. But a few elk have ventured through this wildlife crossing on I-70.

UDOT employees understand that accommodating Utah’s beautiful earth-bound migrating creatures helps keep people safe too. Effective wildlife crossings can reduce the number of auto-wildlife crash incidents on state roads.

Deciding where to place and build structures that work for mule deer, elk, moose and other animals is a studied, multi-step process. UDOT partners with wildlife experts and uses knowledge gained by research in order to plan and build the right crossing at the right location.

This moose is not faked-out by a painted-on cattle guard. Painted crossings are not included in UDOT's standards but some old ones are maintained.

Some common UDOT crossing types include fenced bridges, corrugated pipes, box culverts, underpass structures and even lines painted on the road meant to mimic an actual cattle guard. Fencing around crossing structures is also used to deter animals from using the road.

Fickle Elk

One of the main concerns wildlife experts share is about elk, who typically “refuse to go through anything,”  says USU Associate Professor Dr. Patricia Cramer. A report on research conducted by Cramer in 2008 through 2010 documents some good news.

Cramer posted 35 motion-activated cameras near wildlife crossings in Utah.  Out of 200,000 photos, about 20 images of elk using the crossings were captured at two locations: a pair of bridges near Beaver and a new high-arch underpass on I-70. In a phone interview, Cramer called this new information “very, very significant.”

A mule deer investigates a culvert type crossing before turning away.

Besides documenting elk use, Cramer’s crossing study shows some interesting trends. First,  ungulates rarely use long box culvert crossing structures where exclusion fencing is absent.

Second, the mule deer repellency rate is related to the length of the crossing. Cramer explains the repellancy rate in her study as “the number of observations where mule deer attempted to enter a crossing and have turned around and left, divided by the total number of mule deer observations at the site.”

Mule deer cross a bridge over I-15.

Cramer’s findings underscore the importance of studying all crossing types and features and her data will be used by UDOT to plan and build crossings to accomplish UDOT’s premier goal to improve safety. Her study will be posted on the UDOT website in the the Research Division’s section for Environmental research.

Check back this week to see a post about construction of the high-arch crossing on I-70.

For more information, see:

USU Ecologist Leading Efforts to Stop Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions

Wildlife and Roads

March 3rd, 2011


2 Comments, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

Helpful animations let road users take a virtual look at new road features.

UDOT seeks to be innovative in finding solutions to reduce congestion. But along with innovation comes unfamiliarity, so traffic animations are used to inform the public about new configurations. That way,  road users can get to know the new feature before construction is complete.

One great example of how an animation helped inform road users was UDOT’s 3500 South Continuous Flow Intersection. Since the CFI was Utah’s first, Public Information Managers used the animation  in presentations to community groups and Drivers’ Education classes. When the first CFI opened, drivers seemed to understand its operation right away.

UDOT will debut two first-in-Utah, congestion-busting traffic solutions in 2011: The Reversible Lanes on 5400 South in Taylorsville and the Thru-Turn in Draper. If either of these locations are on one of your commonly driven routes, check out the animations below.

Advantages of animations:

  • Better than just a diagram, animations let you see the roadway and observe traffic moving in real or close to real-time motion.
  • Animations can be shared using social media or added to websites.
  • Public Information Managers can use animations in presentations where audiences can see the project and ask questions.
  • An animation can be a resource after the project for new drivers or a similar project in another location.

February 28th, 2011


No Comments, Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

A new manual presents a science-based approach to selecting the right highway safety improvements.

Southbound I-15

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has compiled crash data collected through a decade of research to take “the guesswork out of safety analysis.” The new approach provides a road map to help transportation professionals make the best safety choices during design, construction and maintenance of roadways.

Robert Hull shows copies of a new manual that outlines a science-based approach to highway safety.

Data collection started with a Transportation Research Board project. As that process concluded, ASSHTO took over the effort to develop a manual by assembling a joint task force with members from many states. Those experts worked together to present findings in a way “practitioners could use and understand,” says Robert Hull, UDOT’s top Traffic and Safety Engineer.

An award-winning seasoned practitioner himself, Hull contributed to development of the manual as a member of that joint task force. Collectively, task force members represented the specialized work areas of safety, traffic engineering and design.

“The key outcome is the ability to quantify from a crash number perspective,” says Hull. He is now heading development of UDOT-specific training and working to integrate the new method to “improve existing processes.”

By using crash data collected from before and after studies, engineers have more effective ways to:

  • Evaluate the features of a roadway
  • Identify locations that could benefit from safety improvements.
  • Compare safety improvements and select the best solution for a specific location.
Rumble stripes, a safety feature on U.S. 6: Noise produced when car tires hit the stripe alerts the driver that the vehicle is crossing into oncoming traffic.

For more about UDOT’s focus on safety, visit the Zero Fatalities website.

February 24th, 2011


1 Comment, Optimize Mobility, by Catherine Higgins.

“Warrants were issued after an investigation” is a phrase you may hear on CSI or at UDOT.

Bus going through green light in Sandy

Safety concerns, vehicular traffic volume, pedestrian traffic volume and roadway features are few things engineers evaluate carefully during the signal warranting process.

UDOT follows the criteria outlined in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices –MUTCD — that lists eight aspects of a roadway that need to be studied and individually warranted before the decision to install a traffic signal is made. Here’s the list straight from the source:

  1. Eight-Hour Vehicular Volume
  2. Four-Hour Vehicular Volume,  Peak Hour
  3. Pedestrian Volume
  4. School Crossing
  5. Coordinated Signal System
  6. Crash Experience
  7. Roadway Network
  8. Intersection Near a Grade Crossing

Traffic engineers conduct studies according to the requirements outlined in the MUTCD, crunch the data and make a decision.


It’s important to follow the MUTCD to ensure that a signal is really needed at the location. ” You want that device to get the respect of road users, ” says Mark Taylor, UDOT Signal Systems Engineer. “Otherwise, you get safety problems,” like excessive rear-end crashes, if drivers disobey the signal.

But the engineers also use good judgement when placing signals, too. “Just because it meets the requirements, we don’t need to put it there,” says Taylor.  Another approach, such as signs or flashing warning lights may provide the needed improvement.

To find out more about the warranting process, and how to request a signal in your area, see this traffic signals brochure produced by the UDOT Traffic and Safety Division.

A related post explains flashing yellow arrows: UDOT GETS FLASHY