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General Information

Madison has nearly 1,800 miles of traffic lanes. The Streets Division is responsible for sweeping every mile of this transportation network using funding provided by Madison's Storm Water Utility.

This debris contains oil and solvents from cars and trucks, salt & sand spread in winter, lawn chemicals, and phosphorous-containing leaves. Street sweeping prevents this material from washing into our storm sewers and then out to our lakes and streams.

Street sweepers need water to work, so they are not used during the winter months. Instead, they sent out for an annual maintenance overhaul.  More about this is explained below.

In 2022, 5,688.99 tons of debris was swept from the roads and hauled to the Dane County Landfill.

In the fall, when the the vast majority of the material the sweepers collect consists of leaves, the material is taken to the city's partner compost site. In 2022, the sweepers collected just over 820 loads of leaves.

Spring Cleanup and Night Sweeping: March-April

As soon as weather permits, generally in March, the Streets Division begins the annual Spring Cleanup. This program is designed to clean up all the debris that accumulates on our streets during the winter.

The goal for the spring cleanup is to sweep every street twice - weather permitting - prior to the start of the spring rains.  Spring cleanup can last up to six weeks.

As part of this program we conduct a night sweeping operations. This has been regular part of the Streets Division operations for decades. A deployment of street sweepers works from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday. 

The extra hours means we can prevent more sand and grit from entering our stormwater system. We do it during the overnight hours instead of the early evening because it keeps the sweepers out of regular evening rush hours. Sweepers are very slow, and would be a major disrupter to traffic.  And sweeping at night allows them to sweep areas that would otherwise see a high volume of cars, like along the boulevard on S. Midvale.

A regular daytime sweeping operation of Monday to Friday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. also runs during the spring clean up time.

In 2023, this process began late in the evening on Sunday, March 5.

Clean Streets/Clean Lakes Sweeping

Clean Streets/Clean Lakes (CSCL) refers to a posted parking restriction that prohibits parking once a week during a 4-hour window.  CSCL restrictions appear on streets four of the five days of the week.

The parking restriction provides access to the curb where road debris accumulates. Street sweepers then service these areas during their posted parking restriction to keep pollutants from washing into our storm water system and out to lakes and streams,

Most of the CSCL areas have this parking restriction year-round since this parking restriction can help with other services, like snow plowing. Be sure to check the parking signs to learn when parking is restricted in your neighborhoods..

Help keep our lakes clean by paying attention to the parking signs when downtown. 

This particular program has been in place since 1995.


Why didn't I see a sweeper during the posted times on my street?

There are multiple reasons why this could be the case, and it is the exception and not the rule. 

For example, if a sweeper breaks down, we may not be able sweep the street during its posted time.

During the heaviest time of the fall leaf collection period, which is late October into November, there may be times where the sweepers are needed to follow behind the leaf collection crews in order to sweep up the debris created by the pickup process

We do our best both trail behind the sweepers and maintain the weekly sweeping commitment. However doing so at the height of leaf pickup it is exceedingly difficult.

Streets has nine sweepers in our fleet and, at the apex of our leaf collection operation, we can have double that many leaf collection crews out citywide so we can keep up the volume of material set out for pickup.  Considering how slow sweepers move and how little they hold (especially in comparison to the rear-loading vehicles used to pick up leaves), they just would never be able to stay caught up with the leaf crews if they stayed in the CSCL areas four days a week.  So, sometimes we need to make an operational adjustment to move sweepers from the CSCL areas to trail the leaf collection crews to keep up with the leaf debris.

Read more about why it's important to keep our streets leaf free from the Madison Area Municipal Stormwater Partnership's Ripple Effects website.

Special Sweeping Program: POST and TOW

Many streets in the downtown isthmus are regularly clogged with parked cars, making street sweeping very difficult. In order to get access to these dirty areas, the Streets Division will conduct a post and tow sweeping operation. 

These select streets will be marked with temporary no parking signs.  Violators of these no parking signs will be ticketed and towed. And then the street will be swept.

Again, be sure to do your part for our lakes and be mindful of parking signs and restrictions.  Plus, you'll avoid an expensive ticket and the inconvenience of having your vehicle towed.

Regular Street Sweeping: May-October

When the spring cleanup ends, most of our street sweepers work on streets throughout Madison. Depending on weather conditions and mechanical breakdowns, the Streets Division aims to sweep each Madison street about once a month.

Keep in mind that sweepers cannot get to the curb when there are obstructions like parked cars, trailers, and even refuse & recycling carts.

Street sweepers are very slow vehicles, and with so many lane miles to sweep, crews cannot always loop back to sweep from areas that were blocked by obstructions.

Be sure to do your part by avoiding placing your collection carts in the gutter, and be sure to abide by all parking rules.

Fall Leaf Clean Up: October-December

Beginning in October, or whenever leaf collection begins, our street sweepers are assigned to shadow our leaf collection crews.

Street sweepers will collect the shards of yard waste left in the roadway after curbside collection.

It is our goal to be no more than two days behind the yard waste collection crews in order to sweep up this material.

Read more about why it's important to keep our streets leaf free from the Madison Area Municipal Stormwater Partnership's Ripple Effects website.

Sweeper Maintenance: December-March

Street sweepers need water to work effectively.  They are not used when temperatures drop below freezing to avoid damage. Plus, street sweepers are very complex pieces of equipment that require considerable preventive maintenance throughout the year.

Therefore, during the winter when not much sweeping would occur, the sweepers are taken out of service and sent to be refurbished.

Once the annual overhauls are complete the sweepers are brought back to the Streets Division ready for another year protecting our lakes.

If the weather cooperates, and the equipment is available, crews will perform street sweeping in winter. We need to above freezing temperatures and curb lines free of snow.

Bike path sweeping

Bike paths, which are also called shared-use paths, are swept by the Streets Division.

Shared-use paths do not have the same road base as a typical residential street. When the ground is soft due to the spring thaw, running the heavy sweeper on the paths could damage the pavement.

Beginning in 2019/2020, the Streets Division began using a light vehicle called a toolcat that has a small sweeper attachment. This vehicle is light enough to be used on the paths earlier in the season and can be used to collect the sand and grit from the winter. However, these vehicles hold very little debris and are not appropriate for much else than picking up some of the sand while the ground is still not quite ready for heavier equipment.

Regular shared-use path sweeping begins when the weather is warm enough so the ground under the paths can withstand the weight of a more traditional sweeper.

Shared-use paths are swept multiple times during the course of the year.