Recent cold weather is a reminder that snow is on the way. One way UDOT prepares for winter weather is by stocking road salt at maintenance facilities around the state.
Road salt deliveries have occurred in some of the high mountain areas and soon all UDOT Maintenance Station storage facilities, in areas where snow is expected, will have plenty of salt on hand. UDOT uses 215,000 tons of salt per year — two-thirds solar salt, one-third rock salt.
“As essential to life as water – ubiquitous – so precious anciently that Roman Legionaries were paid their wages with sal, which is Latin for Salt,” says UDOT Maintenance Methods Engineer Lynn Burnham. “Hence the English word salary.” Bernhard earns his salary planning maintenance methods that keep UDOT roads safe and clear.
Wet salt will re-crystallize with a hard crust that’s difficult to break up, so most salt is stored in covered salt sheds that keep salt dry during stormy weather. Salt is stored at 80 maintenance facilities and 26 other storage areas around the state. There is no central stockpile.
Salt is purchased on contracts set up at UDOT headquarters, and station supervisors order the amounts and type needed for the roads in their area. Most stations place their orders in September and have their salt sheds full by mid October.
UDOT buys reddish-brown rock salt from an underground mine in Central Utah and white evaporated or solar salt from the Great Salt Lake. Both types work well, but salt types have different properties so station supervisors order what works best in each specific climate.
“Utah has an advantage over other snow-belt states,” says Bernhard. “Our salt sources are literally in our own backyard, so we do not have to order a full year’s supply at one time.” Other states anticipate the amount of salt needed and order a year’s worth at one time. If accurate estimates are not made, salt may run out, and leave workers in the lurch.
“We could place an order one day and expecting delivery by the next afternoon,” says Bernhard, who adds that UDOT supervisors keep very close watch on inventory so one-day delivery is not needed. “Our goal is to end the snow season with no salt left in our stockpiles.”