UDOT adds ‘heat tape’ to traffic lights to clear off snow

Mar 7, 2023, 2:24 PM

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s Department of Transportation is paving the way in making roads safer by making traffic lights more visible during winter storms.

Driving is already dangerous and stressful enough in a winter storm. The last thing a driver wants to be worried about is trying to see a traffic light, and now thanks to “heat tape,” most of the guesswork is taken out of the equation.

Mark Taylor, UDOT’s Traffic Signal Operations Engineer, said he could turn the heat tape on from their building in Salt Lake City or whenever he has his laptop.

“We’ve put heat tape on the visor,” Taylor explained.

The heat tape could quite literally be a lifesaver when driving through inclement weather conditions. The application is a first for any department of transportation nationwide.

“This has been an issue for years and years,” said John Gleason, a UDOT spokesperson.

Until the heat tape came into the picture, as fixing the problem before it took more time and energy.

“Our technicians would go out there with this handmade toilet brush. If that didn’t work, they’d go up in bucket truck and use an ice scraper and scrape ice off the light like you would a windshield of your car,” Taylor said.

The “handmade toilet brush” used to get snow off the traffic lights. (KSLTV)

Now, though, the process is a whole lot simpler and cheaper, only costing only a dollar per storm for each traffic light.

“It’s a very low investment to improve safety on our roads. If you can’t see the lights – you can’t see the signals – you can imagine the safety concerns,” Gleason explained.

So far, UDOT has installed the heat tape on more than 450 signals spanning Cache, Utah, Davis, Salt Lake, and Iron County. The heat tape is currently installed in 67 intersections across the state.

“We can turn the tape on and off, and that prolongs the life of the tape,” Gleason said.

He said there are around 1,700 traffic lights across the state, and there is enough for approximately 1,000 traffic lights.

While UDOT said the tape is not completely foolproof, it will make visibility much more efficient.

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UDOT adds ‘heat tape’ to traffic lights to clear off snow