Just in time to plan that spring or summer vacation getaway, the Utah Department of Transportation has released the state's new official highway map.
And because Utah's cities, towns and natural wonders have conveniently remained in the same place since the last map was produced in 2001, there isn't much difference between this map and the old one.
Unless, of course, you're trying to go between Manti and Zion National Park.
Holders of the new map will be fully aware it's a 198-mile trek from Manti to Zion. But motorists who continue to use their out-of-date, pre-Olympics map will falsely believe that trip covers just 196 miles. And for the low-on-fuel driver trying to make it to a Manti gas station, those two miles could make a big difference.
The new map does, in fact, eliminate some errors on the mileage guide that have been mistakenly carried over from year to year.
The new map also lists the correct numbers for mileposts and all freeway exits, and also shows the location of scenic overviews throughout the state. The population totals listed for each of the state's cities and towns have been updated as well, with 2003 census figures.
One other change: For obvious reasons, the new map does not include inset maps showing the location of 2002 Winter Games venues. That leaves more room on the new map for tourism information from the Utah Travel Council.
The map is available for free at any of the state's visitors' centers, through the Travel Council, at any of UDOT's four regional offices or by going to the UDOT Web site www.dot.state.ut.us and requesting to receive one by mail.
This year's map is produced digitally in a graphics program called "Illustrator." It therefore has "less clutter" than the previous map, produced by a computer mapping program called "ArcView," said UDOT spokesman Nile Easton.
The total cost, including design work and the printing of about half a million maps, is around $60,000.
UDOT, in cooperation with the Travel Council, generally prints a new state map about every two years, or whenever the current supply runs low. But it printed 1.2 million copies of the old map in late 2001 and early 2002 in anticipation of needing quite a few more during the Olympics. In fact, about 600,000 were given out as a direct result of the Winter Games, Easton said. But there were enough leftovers to last until just recently.
"We've got our inventory down to the last probably two or three thousand and what we usually do is ship those off to schools," Easton said.Comment on this story As long as those students aren't put in charge of planning a trip between Manti and Zion, that should be a good use for them.