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About Snow and Ice Control Operations

Snow and Ice Control Operations are coordinated by the Department of Public Works Operations Division.  The Director of Operations coordinates staff in Fleet, Forestry, Parking and Sanitation to provide safe and passable streets in the City of Milwaukee.  Public safety is the number one priority when clearing snow and ice on Milwaukee's 7,000 lane miles of streets.  Snow and ice control efforts to create safe and passable streets impact every resident, business and visitor and are vital for maintaining safe mobility throughout the City.

Since all streets cannot be addressed at the same time, streets are salted and plowed in the following order:

  • Main arterials and bus routes
  • Secondary mains
  • Residential streets, dead ends, cul-de sacs and crossovers

Types of Operations

Our response is determined by pavement temperatures, future weather forecast, duration of storm, type of snow (heavy or light) and other factors.  On average, the City of Milwaukee conducts 38 General Ice Control Operations (less than 3") and 4 Plowing Operations (more than 3") a season.  Every storm is unique and our team has been trained to tailor our response to ensure safe and passable roadways.

Anti-icing: A 23.3% salt brine solution is applied to bare pavement up to 72 hours in advance of snow to prevent the snow from bonding to the pavement.  

What it looks like:

In Progress After
Picture of Brine Truck Picture of salt brine on street

Anti-icing prevents the snow and ice from bonding to the pavement and reduces our salt usage.

Bridge Run:  A small complement of trucks address bridges and viaducts, which are more likely to freeze due to their elavation.

General Ice Control (GIC): Our most common operation.  We deploy 103 salt trucks to address main streets across the City.  These trucks are equipped with an underbody plow for use during lighter accumulation snow and a front plow for heavier snow.  During a GIC we apply salt at a rate of between 200-550 lbs per lane mile.  If conditions permit, the salt is pre-wetted with salt brine, this activates it sooner and reduces salt bounce.  When pavement temperatures drop below -15° we use green treated salt or calcium chloride.

Salt Truck rear                  Salt Truck Rear

Plowing:

          Utilized when we get more than 3-4" of snow.  The salt trucks continue to address main streets and we equip our garbage and recycling packer trucks with front plow blades to address residential streets.  

Packer Truck Plowing Snow

Ways you can help during a snow operation:

  • Park legally and follow alternate side parking rules.  We do a better job clearing to the curb when parking rules are followed.  Parking farther away from driveways, alleys and intersections allows our equipment to get closer to the curbs.
  • Shovel your sidewalk within 24 hours after the snow falls. 
  • Clear your hydrant of snow and ice and assist neighbors who are elderly or disabled.
  • Clear snow and ice around your garbage and recycling carts.
  • Adjust your driving for conditions by slowing down and providing more space for braking.
  • Give our trucks space and stay back from the trucks salting or brining streets to ensure the product hits the streets instead of your car.