Utah highway budget cuts may delay roadkill cleanup, snowplow purchases

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) I-80 at Parleys Summit is a notorious spot for animal collisions. This 2016 file photo shows the area before construction of a planned wildlife bridge to be built just West of the summit.

Dead animals along roads may not be picked up as quickly, grass there may grow longer and some old snowplows won’t be replaced — but lawmakers approved such transportation cutbacks Thursday to help cover expected tax revenue losses from COVID-19 economic hits.

The Legislature has asked state departments to come up with ways to cut 2%, 5% or 10% from their budgets, and an appropriations subcommittee on Thursday endorsed a plan from the Utah Department of Transportation that could cut up to $5 million from its operations budgets as needed.

UDOT Deputy Director Terri Newell said none of the cuts should compromise public safety. “We put safety as our No. 1 priority,” she said. “We’re trying to make sure we can keep the traveling public safe.”

Some of the line items in the plan for possible operations cuts include:

• Reducing carcass pickup, litter removal and lawn mowing, plus delaying the opening of seasonal roads to potentially save up to $2 million.

• Delaying plans to buy three replacement snowplows, saving $675,000.

• Reducing state support for a Utah Transit Authority alternative fuels facility by up to $661,300.

• Cutting by $200,000 a program to identify surplus UDOT property to sell. UDOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras said that program found $30 million of surplus property last year but the agency likely already has found all the “big, juicy” properties it could likely sell.

• Saving $70,000 by no longer offering UTA transit passes to UDOT employees.

• Cutting travel and support for the Utah Transportation Commission by $62,600.

• Reducing hours for incident management team patrols — the trucks that help direct traffic around accidents — to save $25,000.

• Cutting back on grounds maintenance at UDOT buildings to save up to $50,000.

• Delaying planned computer replacement to save $60,000.

• Reducing project planning and support by up to $213,000.