The presence of Streets & Sanitation's blue Snow Fighting Trucks plowing and salting Chicago’s streets is an unmistakable sign that it is once again winter in the Windy City.
Streets & Sanitation coordinates Chicago's snow and ice control efforts from Snow Command located in the 911 Center on West Madison Street. This high tech command center allows us to access and view more than 1,500 cameras and monitor a network of more than 60 pavement sensors to get a quick and accurate assessment of our pavement conditions citywide and in outlying areas. We track incoming weather systems via Doppler radar and through constant communication with our meteorological consultants and the National Weather Service. And we combine all of these technologies along with the Global Positioning Systems on all of our trucks to strategically deploy our snow personnel and any or all of our 287 Snow Fighting Trucks or 26 smaller plows (4X4).
Once on the roadways our trucks patrol, plow or salt roads as necessary. The department comes into the Winter of 2013-2014 with more than 285,000 thousand tons of road salt and can replenish as necessary. We have also been making frequent use of more environmentally friendly deicers that are made with sugar beet byproducts and liquid salt brine (salt water). This includes a regular spraying in winter of our bridge decks and overpasses with this anti-icing mix to resist and slow down the formation of ice on the driving surface.When temperatures fall into the low teens, we use special tanks mounted on our Snow Fighting Trucks to spray our salt with this beet juice based mixture to make the salt work more effectively at lower temperatures.
Streets & Sanitation is responsible for maintaining winter roadway safety on a route system of 9,456 lane miles. Our routes consist of city main streets, side streets and Lake Shore Drive. The expressway system that travels through Chicago is maintained by the State of Illinois' Department of Transportation, IDOT.
During a snow program Streets & Sanitation’s first priority is to clear our main routes and Lake Shore Drive. We will generally remain on these primary routes until a storm subsides. Once arterial streets are patrolled and deemed safe, Snow Command turns attention to the side streets/residential.
While most side streets are cleared by full size Snow Fighting Trucks, Chicago's narrowest side streets are cleaned by a fleet of 26 smaller plows. These include 4x4 pick up trucks with plows which are narrow plows with heavy salt capacity
For major snowstorms, Streets and Sanitation also has the capacity to equip as many as 400 garbage trucks with "quick hitch" plows to supplement the fleet. Since these don't have salt spreading capability, they are run in tandem with trucks that do. In addition, heavy equipment and labor is available from other municipal departments for snow clearance during and after a blizzard.
Residents can follow our snow fighting fleet through the innovative plow tracker ChicagoShovels.org. Plow tracker allows residents to view plows in real-time as the plow's salt city streets.
In order to ensure that the most critical roadways in Chicago are kept open to full capacity at all times, the City of Chicago enforces a Winter Overnight Parking Ban on 107 miles of vital arterial streets from 3AM to 7AM between December 1st and April 1st, regardless of snow.
Motorists who ignore this permanently posted seasonal tow zone face a $150 towing fee (minimum) in addition to a $60 ticket and an initial $20 daily storage fee.
A separate snow related parking ban exists for another 500 miles of main streets and can be activated after there are at least two inches of snow on the street. While the 2” snow inch ban is not activated often, motorists who are parked there when it is could receive a ticket or find that their vehicle has been relocated in order to facilitate snow clearing operations.
Both of these parking bans were implemented on designated arterial streets to prevent recurrences of problems that happened in 1967 and 1979 when Chicago came to a traffic standstill due to major snowstorms.