UDOT study focuses on winter closures of mountain passes

Posted at 7:45 PM, Dec 26, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-26 21:45:17-05

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah’s high elevations and winter driving conditions mean several mountain roads close down for the winter, but the Utah Department of Transportation says it may be worth keeping them open.

UDOT will conduct a study this winter that will compare the costs of maintaining those roads with any potential benefits. The study would look at things like staff salaries, equipment, fuel and roadway improvements. Historically those roads are closed every year.

“For the longest time we shut them down at the beginning of the winter,” says UDOT spokesperson Adan Carillo. “And we do not open them until the spring season, perhaps until even late into the summer.”

Better transportation and economic benefit are just two potential reasons for keeping high mountain roads open during the winter. UDOT will look at historical data for eight passes throughout the state.

“Our goal is to maximize efficiency of the transportation system,” says Carillo. “So identifying whether or not these roads are a benefit to the local economy to keep them open, that’s what this study will help us determine.”

Among those being evaluated, UDOT will look at SR 190 in Big Cottonwood Canyon, commonly known as Guardsman pass, SR 35 near Wolf Creek Pass, SR 150 in Kamas, SR 92 near the Alpine loop, SR 153 in Beaver, and SR 143 in Parowan.

Many of the snowy passes are used for backcountry recreation. Skiers we spoke to have mixed reaction to the possibility. Some saying it would take away the play area, others saying it would open up more recreation options.

“There’s people who hike past it every day to go skiing, to go snow boarding,” says snowboarder Tyler Howell. “They’re not stopping anyone, so it’s just a matter of what they’re willing to let people do.”

The results of the study don’t automatically mean road closures will change, those decisions will be made separately by administrators, based on the study’s results.