About Snow and Ice Control Operations

About Snow and Ice Control Operations

The City of Milwaukee recieved the 2018 Excellence is Snow and Ice Control Award from the American Public Works Assosication.  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 our priority is to keep transportation routes and main streets drivable.  Once these streets are safe and passable, equipment is assigned to residential streets.

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 and 4 Plowing Operations 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 in advance of snow to prevent the snow from bonding to the pavement.  The City makes and stores our brine at our Sanitation locations.  Our brine operation was featured on TMJ4 in December 2018.

What it looks like:

In Progress After
Picture of salt brine on street

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

General Ice Control (GIC): Our most common operation.  We deploy up to 103 salt trucks to maintain safe and passable streets.  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.


Plowing: The salt trucks continue to address arterial streets and we equip our garbage and recycling packer trucks with front plow blades to address residential streets.

Garbage Packer with plow pushing snow

Environmental Impacts of Salt

Click to learn about impacts of salt on the environment

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.
  • Sign up for Parking text alerts.
  • Do not shovel, blow or plow snow back into the streets.
  • Shovel your sidewalk within 24 hours after the snow has stopped falling, assist neighbors who are elderly or disabled.
  • Clear your hydrant of snow and ice.
  • Clear snow and ice around and on top of 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.
  • Plan your route to stay on main transportation routes as much as possible during snow and ice events.
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