The presence of the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation's blue Snow Fighting Trucks plowing and salting the city’s streets is an unmistakable sign that it is once again winter in Chicago.
The Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation is responsible for maintaining winter roadway safety on over 9,400 of city lane miles. Our routes consist of city main streets, neighborhood streets and Lake Shore Drive. The expressway system that travels through Chicago is maintained by the State of Illinois' Department of Transportation, IDOT, and their familiar orange trucks.
During a snow program the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation’s first priority is to clear our main routes and Lake Shore Drive. We will remain on these primary routes until a storm stops. Once arterial streets are safe and clear our crews move to the side streets.
While most side streets are cleared by large snow plows, Chicago's narrowest side streets are cleaned by a fleet of smaller plows. These include 4x4 pick up trucks with plows and heavy salt capacity
For major snowstorms, Streets and Sanitation also has the capacity to equip garbage trucks with "quick hitch" plows to supplement the fleet. Since the garbage trucks don't have salt spreading capability, they run in tandem with trucks outfitted with salt spreaders.
Snow Command Center
The Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation coordinates Chicago's snow and ice control efforts from Snow Command.
The high tech Command Center allows us to access and view more than 1,400 cameras and monitor our network of pavement sensors to get a quick and accurate assessment of our pavement conditions citywide. 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 (GPS) on all of our trucks to strategically deploy our snow personnel and our Snow Fighting Trucks.
In order to ensure that the most critical roadways in Chicago are kept open to full capacity at all times, the City of Chicago instituted and vigorously enforces a Winter Overnight Parking Ban on 107 miles of vital arterial streets from 3 am to 7 am between December 1 and April 1, 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, no matter the time of day or the calendar date. While the 2-inch snow ban is not activated often, motorists who are parked within the restricted area 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.