Visualizing Clear Roads

Over the last year, UDOT has installed 37 cameras for use specifically as visual tools  in winter storm management. These cameras give insight to the road conditions in some of Utah’s most remote and problematic areas. The installation has a reasonable one-time cost of $7,500 to install and maintain the camera, a minimal monthly service fee  and their use is available to the Highway Patrol, the Sheriff’s Department and the school systems to have insight into the road conditions, further magnifying the cameras’ value. This information is provided quickly without having to waste time or resources to get to those remote locations to observe conditions. More energy savings is realized because the cameras are powered by solar power as power sources in these remotes areas are minimal or non-existent.

State Route 44 at Mile 9

Knowing the conditions in these remote areas prevents unnecessary trips by the plows. The Duchesne maintenance shed alone saved 28 trips in one month to the Indian Creek Summit. Each of these trips had an approximate cost of $325 when you factor in manpower, equipment and fuel.  This savings of $9,100 for the month, covers the cost of the camera without even taking into account the accidents prevented or the environmental benefits of eliminating the trip.  It also means that the resources are available for other critical uses such as maintaining roads elsewhere. Snowfall can be observed when it begins and plows can be pro-actively deployed.

The winter condition cameras were installed as a result of a UDOT District Engineer named Bob Westover. Bob’s extensive experience working at UDOT gave him the insight to see how we could better use our resources. It is this institutional knowledge that allows employees to implement value on a daily basis.

What you can do:

  • Check road conditions on UDOT’s CommuterLink website before you leave the house to know the conditions of the roads
  • If you suspect weather changes, consider leaving earlier or later than your planned time to avoid the brunt of the storm. Less cars on the road during a storm helps UDOT clear the roads faster.

(DH)

Doing more with less salt — and less energy spent on snow and ice control

The process of removing snow and ice from Utah’s roads is a critical and expensive function of the Utah Department of Transportation.

Most of the passenger vehicle accidents from winter storms tend to happen at the beginning of the storm as conditions change.  Salting the roads before the storm unfortunately results in much of the salt being pushed off the road and wasted because there is no moisture yet to help it stick to the road.

In 1999 Utah began experimenting with a new process to improve our pre-storm approach to snow and ice control. Instead of  spreading dry salt on the roads, UDOT began applying a 23% brine solution to the roads which sticks immediately and prevents precipitation from bonding to the road. Not only does this make the roads easier to plow, but it uses less salt — 20% less salt!

On average, the diesel trucks that operate the plow process get less than 5 miles per gallon. With over 598 trucks in service working on snow operations, even a small improvement in gas mileage will save Utah thousands of dollars per snowstorm in fuel costs. Pre-wetting the roads results in less salt being hauled, less repeat trips by the trucks to battle the snow and ice, less mechanical work done by the plow (as the snow is easier to move because it’s not sticking to the road) and most importantly — safer conditions at the beginning of the storm which has resulted in a significant drop in winter-weather related accidents.

Things you can do:

  • Take a look in the trunk of your car to see if there is anything you can do without in order to decrease the amount of weight you’re hauling
  • Apply a similar brine solution to your driveway before it snows to prevent the snow from sticking to your driveway. It’s easier to shovel and a bag of salt will last you the whole winter!

(DH)

Turning off your engine to save energy.

 

What activity wastes gasoline, costs tax payers money, produces pollutants, and yet doesn’t get you anywhere? Idling! And yet, every year, Americans waste 3 billion gallons of fuel by idling their vehicles.

If you started driving way back in the heyday of the carburetor, engines started up with a big gush of fuel. But unless you own an automotive dinosaur, your current engine is so efficient that idling would rarely, if ever, be an energy-friendly choice.

Idling places unnecessary wear-and-tear on the engine, and many manufacturers discourage it. Excessive idling can actually damage your engine components, including connecting rod bearings. Because of the relatively slow speed of the engine, more pressure is exerted on the bottom center and top center of the bearings. The faster the engine turns, the load gets spread out more evenly over the bearing surface.

An idling engine may not get hot enough to start the catalytic convert working or hot enough enough to run efficiently. Fuel is only partially combusted when idling because an engine does not operate at its peak temperature. This leads to the build up of fuel residues on cylinder walls that can damage engine components and increase fuel consumption. It may also load up the catalytic converter with fuel that could lead to an early demise of the catalytic converter.

  • The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (Florida section) members were asked to perform a simple experiment with their vehicles equipped with a miles-per-gallon meter.
  • They determined restarting uses approximately the same amount of gasoline as idling for 6 seconds with the A/C on.

Prime vehicles for this kind of damage are construction and maintenance vehicles. Trucks spend an inordinate amount of time idling because the driver is writing reports, observing construction work and researching proper contract compliance.

Heavy-duty vehicles, such as buses and trucks, cause even more pollution when they idle than light-duty ones. Most heavy-duty vehicles run on diesel fuel and produce many more pollutants than gasoline vehicles. Although newer diesel vehicles are cleaner than ever before, older vehicles emit large amounts of carbon monoxide (CO), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), particulate matter (PM), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), hydrocarbons (HC), and oxides of sulfur (SOx).

Did you Know:

  • Idling for 10 seconds on average uses the same amount of gas as restarting your car
  • Idling for two minutes uses the same amount of fuel it takes to go about one mile
  • Idling for 1 hour burns nearly 1 gallon of gasoline
  • The average person idles their car five to 10 minutes a day
  • Idling is linked to increases in asthma, allergies, heart and lung disease and cancer
  • Newer vehicles need no more than 30 seconds of idling time in cold temperatures
  • (Idle Free Utah and California Energy Commission)
  • In the 2008 school year 3,000 school bus drivers in Utah reduced their combined idling time by 21 minutes per day per bus. This produced an air quality benefit of preventing 5,000 lbs. of particulate matter emissions and improved our state’s air quality (2009 Energy Advisor Annual Report – PDF).

Things you can do:

  • Choosing to walk into restaurants and banks rather than using the drive-through will help improve fuel economy, reduce emissions and enhance your well-being.
  • If you must use a drive-though, consider turning off your engine while you wait.
  • Shut off your engine while waiting to pick your kids up from school
  • As gas prices rise, find ways to use gas-powered vehicles less.

Links:

  • Gov. Herbert urging motorists not to idle
  • Clear the Air Challenge – By driving less and driving smarter, you will ultimately help improve air quality, reduce traffic congestion and conserve energy in Utah. You will also be eligible for weekly and grand prize drawings by meeting straightforward, achievable travel goals.
  • Utah Moms for Clean Air – Utah Moms for Clean Air uses the power of moms to clean up Utah’s dirty air. In doing so, we are uncompromising defender’s of our children’s health.
  • SNAP works in partnership with the national Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program, which also provides funding for projects that improve student walking and biking access around schools as well as encourage and educate students to perform this healthy activity safely.  SNAP works to encourage the safety and health benefits of walking, as well as decrease air pollution and traffic congestion around schools.
  • U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers Blog on Idling
  • The U.S. Department of Energy’s national Clean Cities program reduces our reliance on imported oil, saves on fuel costs, and reduces air pollution. This network of grassroots organizations includes 88 coalitions in 45 states, and consists of individuals and dozens of public and private fleets.
  • KRCL’s RadioActive! Sept 17 – Idle Free Utah

(DH)

Soda Bottle Caps

Did you know that the caps on soda bottles are made of a plastic that is not commonly recycled? (FYI: In Salt Lake City, they are included in the list of plastics that can be recycled. See below.)

Most soda bottles are made out of Type 1 Plastic (Polyethylene Terephthalate), a plastic generally accepted for recycling in most curbside and drop-off programs. Caps are generally made from Type 5 Plastic (Polypropylene) which is surprisingly hard to recycle. Therefore, most recycling programs ask that you remove the caps from bottles before placing them in recycling bins.

For one thing, removing the caps allows the bottles to dry out (reducing transportation costs by reducing weight). Also, open bottles are easier to crush and bale.  If bottles can be more easily crushed, more can fit into a bin/truck and less trips can be made to move the materials, further reducing transportation costs, reducing congestion on highways, reducing emissions and reducing fuel costs.

By not removing caps, the value of the mixed plastic goes down (if it’s an area where #5 cannot be recycled), making it more expensive for your recycling facility to process the materials and costing you money if it is a public works program. There is also an increased danger for workers from jammed machines due to the caps.

To determine if a bottle can be recycled, look for a triangle with chasing arrows on the bottom of the bottle.  If the number in the middle of the triangle corresponds to your local recycling facility’s accepted materials, the bottle is recyclable. If you choose not to find a way to recycle the caps, please be responsible and dispose of them in your trash receptacle.

Things to consider:

According to Preserve, their recycled #5 plastic uses at least:

  • 54 percent less water than virgin polypropylene
  • 64 percent less greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents) than virgin polypropylene
  • 75 percent less oil than virgin polypropylene
  • 48 percent less coal than virgin polypropylene
  • 77 percent less natural gas than virgin polypropylene
  • 46 percent less electricity than virgin polypropylene

Things you can do:

(DH)

Hello world!

If you would like to contact the UDOT Energy Team, please submit a comment here.