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UDOT engineer Jessica Andrews spent four years tracking and assessing the structural condition of culverts across the state. Along the way, she encountered a few critters.
One small problem in a culvert, if not treated, it can lead to a catastrophic failure on the road. —UDOT engineer Jessica Andrews

SALT LAKE CITY — UDOT will begin repairing distressed culverts thanks to a statewide study that determined 10 percent to 15 percent of the 27,000 culverts need attention.

"We didn't know how many we had, for sure," explained Tim Rose, a UDOT regional deputy director. "We didn't know what material they were made of, and we didn't know where they all were."

The four-year study was to provide a baseline number of the state's culverts, most of which are more than 50 years old. Estimates ranged from 40,000 to 60,000 culverts across the state, stretching under roadways to provide free passage of water. Now with an accurate number and damage assessments in hand, UDOT can budget for repairs.

"The most important thing we discovered was our culverts are in better condition than we ever thought they were," Rose said.

UDOT engineer Jessica Andrews and her team crisscrossed the state, discovering snakes, animal carcasses, and in some cases people camped inside culverts. She said she even discovered a critter or two staring back at her.

But the inspections included a search for cracks or other problems that could lead to flooding and the erosion of the state's roadways.

"One small problem in a culvert, if not treated, it can lead to a catastrophic failure on the road," Andrews said.

"If culverts clog up, if they are not working properly, the subgrade underneath the pavement gets saturated; and that tends to ruin the pavement quicker," Rose said.

First up will be repairs on a culvert under I-80 in Parleys Canyon. Timing for the repair will be determined later this month.

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com