City of Madison Snow Plowing Priorities
Public safety is the top priority of the City of Madison's snow and ice policy. We are committed to providing residents and visitors a safe winter travel experience while protecting our environment through the responsible use of deicing chemicals and abrasives.
City staff is responsible for keeping 1,742 lane miles of streets, 150 miles of sidewalks and bike paths, clear of snow and ice. We are also responsible for clearing snow from 887 priority bus stops after most snow storms and another 800 bus stops after major storms.
Motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists must remember that winter conditions mean slower going. You need to allow additional time to travel to your destination and, motorists should allow more distance to stop.
We are committed to making sure our bus routes are open so residents can take advantage of mass transit during winter. We also strive to clear City sidewalks and bike paths in a timely manner.
As an effort to protect groundwater and our lakes the City of Madison limits the amount of salt that is applied to its streets. Only main arterials, thoroughfares, main connector streets, Madison Metro bus routes, streets surrounding hospitals and schools and major hills and curves are salted. All other City of Madison streets receive sand to act as an abrasive on hills, intersections and curves.
Snow Plow FAQs
Q: What streets are plowed whenever it snows?
A: For any snow event, our number one goal is to keep designated salt routes in good winter driving condition. Salt routes are bus routes, primary streets, arterial roadways and streets to and from hospitals and schools. These are the streets on which we apply salt and we send crews to work on these routes whenever it snows.
Slippery spots on residential streets will be sanded as needed. City owned sidewalks and priority crosswalks are cleared as needed during regular working hours.
Arterial bikeways are plowed as needed with a goal of having them cleared as soon as possible for commuters.
Q: How do you decide what streets are on the main salt routes?
A: Only main arterials, thoroughfares, main connector streets, Madison Metro bus routes, streets surrounding hospitals and schools and major hills and curves are salted.
Q: Why don't we plow and salt all the streets in the city, specifically secondary and residential streets?
A: The City of Madison limits the amount of salt that is applied to its streets as an effort to protect its groundwater and the quality of the lakes. Only main arterials, thoroughfares, main connector streets, Madison Metro bus routes, streets surrounding hospitals and schools and major hills and curves are salted. All other City of Madison streets receive sand to act as an abrasive on hills, intersections and curves.
Q: I only have on-street parking. Why do you always plow snow against my car?
A: Even though there are cars parked on the street, the plows must clear the traffic lanes of each of the streets. The snow is plowed to the right to where the curb is. Unfortunately for those people who park on the street, the snow is plowed up against the cars. That is why we ask that all cars try to find off street parking whenever there is snow accumulations of 3" or more and until streets are plowed.
Q: What happens if there are less than 3 inches of snow on the streets?
A: All salt routes are plowed and salted during every measurable snow event regardless of the accumulation. Residential streets that are not salted are only plowed when snow accumulations reach the 3" level and the snow event has ended or has just about concluded. If the residential streets are not plowed, sand is applied at hills, intersections and curves to act as an abrasive to assist in braking.
Q: What happens if there are 3 or more inches of snow on the roads?
A: When the snow accumulation reaches 3" or more, we evaluate and, if necessary, declare a "Snow Emergency" and convert from a spreading operation to an all out plowing operation. (During a "Snow Emergency" declaration, alternate side-parking restrictions go into effect in the Snow Emergency Zone and remain in effect throughout the remainder of the City. The Snow Emergency lasts for a minimum of 2 consecutive nights.)
On the second night of a snow emergency crews will plow back snow on the alternate side of residential streets.
Use the Where Do I Park? app to find out what side of the street to park on each night.
Q: What happens during extreme winter weather events, such as, blizzards and ice storms?
A: When Madison is hit with extreme winter events such as blizzards and ice storms, these events can stress our capacity to keep streets safe for driving. During such events, snow and ice operations will focus on a few main streets and routes for emergency vehicles. In extreme weather condtions, we recommend that you stay off the roads.
City staff will issue regular Snow Plow Updates during these severe winter events. Residents can sign up to receive e-mail updates and text alerts on Declared Snow Emergencies and email Snow Plow updates from the Streets Department.
As major winter weather events subside, we will start a General Plowing operation.
Q: Will the snow plow ever completely clear my residential street down to bare pavement?
A: No! It is not the goal of the City's Snow and Ice Policy to have all streets clear down to bare pavement.
Q: How long will it take to finish plowing all the streets?
A: Once a general, full scale plowing of all 1708 lane miles of streets begins, it usually takes between 10-12 hours to complete the plowing effort.
Q: How do I report that the snow plows missed my street?
A: Submit a missed Snow Removal Report a Problem.
Q: What can I do about snow plows that block my driveway with snow?
A: This is an unfortunate side effect of plowing all streets in the City. All snow must be plowed to the curb and as a result driveways get blocked with the wet, heavy snow from the plow. It is the property owner's responsibility to clear the snow from the bottom of the driveway.
Q: What does the City of Madison do about snow & ice during the winter?
A: Here are the City of Madison Procedures for Snow & Ice Control.