SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) officials said it has started installing heat tape to traffic signals across Utah to help keep them clear of snow and make them more visible during and after a snowstorm.

The heat tape sits underneath the hood, or visor, of the individual traffic lights. The tape provides a heated cap for the light, melting away snow during severe weather. UDOT says the tape integrates into the existing traffic light wiring and can be controlled remotely to turn on when needed and turn off to save energy.

Up until the mid-2000s, heat from incandescent bulbs kept much of the snow off of traffic signals. UDOT began making the switch from incandescent bulbs to LEDS, which last longer and save on electricity but don’t generate as much heat. As a result, during severe conditions, some traffic lights would become less visible.

“We have been looking at ways to prevent snow buildup on traffic signals for years now – it has been more of an issue since the change to brighter, more energy-efficient LED signal lights,” said UDOT traffic signal operations engineer Mark Taylor. “After some discussions with our supplier, we’ve developed and are installing a solution that is both cost-effective and works well in most conditions.”

UDOT reportedly began experimenting with the heat tape a few years ago. UDOT said prior to the tape, a more expensive device was considered that included a temperature and humidity sensor but opted for the more cost-effective tape.

According to UDOT, the department’s heat tape is a first for any department of transportation nationwide.

Currently, the tape is installed on more than 450 signals in five counties: Cache, Davis, Utah, Salt Lake and Iron. Heat tape installation was focused on signals that faced north and west, as UDOT says those tend to get packed with snow the most.

The department said it has 67 intersections that are ready to go and will continue to apply heat tape throughout 2023 at intersections that are prone to snow buildup.