City of Springfield, Illinois

James O. Langfelder - Mayor

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Commonly Asked Questions About Snow Removal

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   Frequently Asked Questions

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Public Works continually monitors the forecasted pavement temperatures, forecasted precipitation amounts, and other factors to determine if pre-treatment of specific areas of the city is warranted. If we find that this course of action is appropriate, Public Works will complete a “brine” treatment in certain locations. Each storm, while in some ways the same, is very different when it comes to determining the proper course of action.

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Public Works crews begin clearing main routes and emergency and trouble spots (see below) as soon as snow begins to accumulate. With any significant snow fall, Public Works moves to an around the clock, 24/7, operation.

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Main routes are those streets with the highest amount of traffic as determined by the city Traffic Engineer.

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Emergency and trouble spots include steep inclines as well as areas near hospitals and residents who are on a medical emergency need list. Keeping these streets clear is our top priority until the snow stops falling.

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When we are anticipating a significant snow fall, the city may initiate a “snow emergency” which requires vehicles to be removed by an announced time from city snow routes. Snow routes are marked by signs and can also be found on the city website at www.springfield.us. Vehicles remaining parked on the street negatively impact snow removal operations, as they become obstacles to work around and prevent the full clearing of the street. Vehicles not moved by the designated time are subject to ticketing and towing.

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A resident must submit a letter to the city from their physician indicating the need for immediate access to 24/7 medical care due to a life-threatening condition. The letters should be submitted to the City of Springfield’s Office of Public Works, Attn: Director, 300 S. 7th Street, 2nd Floor, Springfield, IL 62711. In addition during any weather event 911 coordinates with Public Works dispatch for immediate response to any emergency.

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Public Works generally does not start plowing residential streets until all main streets and trouble spots are adequate for travel. Plowing on residential streets does not typically occur until the snow fall has ceased. Therefore plowing can begin in the late hours of the evening or morning depending on the timing of the snow.

Also, Public Works does not plow every street for every snow event. Many events are less than a few inches. By the time that Public Works crews could begin plowing residential streets, they are passable. Often in those conditions plowing will have a sheeting affect that will cause other issues with the road. Please note, Public Works does not plow any private streets.

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With city resources and more than 625 miles of roads and 2,000 lane miles, during significant storms it takes city crews 24 to 36 hours or more to plow each and every residential street and cul-de-sac. The time it takes to plow depends on the amount and type of snow fall.

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In an effort to respond more quickly, the Office of Public Works will be initiating an immediate “one pass” approach for major snow events in the 2017–2018 winter season. Instead of plowing curb-to-curb, which may take several passes, we will plow every street once before going back and going curb-to-curb. This approach utilized in other communities allows for plows to access neighborhoods and provide limited egress from their homes to access the city main streets.

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Public Works can provide up to as many as 23 tandems, 14 pieces of heavy equipment (graders, backhoes, and loaders), 4 one-ton dump trucks, and 24 pickup trucks.

CWLP Lake Services can provide up to 4 tandem plows, 4 pieces of heavy equipment, and 2 pickup trucks. Lake Services focuses on lake roads and nearby subdivisions. In addition a number of contractors are utilized during major snow events. Each contractor utilizes a number of dump trucks, pickups and heavy equipment.

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During all snow events, Public Works strives to plow the city’s main streets and trouble spots to bare pavement as best we can. Characteristically for a smaller snow fall (generally less than three inches), we will not plow all residential streets because by the time we are able to get to them, they would likely be snow packed from traffic. In those cases, we are simply making the conditions more hazardous than snow packed streets. Additionally, with the smaller amounts of snow fall, streets are generally passable and it would not be a wise use of limited resources to plow them.

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During a significant snow fall, Public Works will plow every city street. As a general rule, residential streets are not plowed unless snow accumulation exceeds three inches or conditions would otherwise merit it.

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Cul-de-sacs are best cleared with smaller equipment, such as a backhoe, small dump truck or pickup truck. Often the larger trucks will plow through streets prior to a backhoe being available for the cul-de-sacs. If a resident believes their street has been missed 24 hours after the snowfall has ended, they should contact our 24/7 dispatcher at 217.789.2246.

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While city drivers do their best not to impede resident access, often due to circumstances, it does occur. Frankly, the higher the snow amount, the higher the frustration. The focus of our drivers is to clear the streets as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Cul-de-sacs are particularly challenging both in terms of when they are plowed and placement of the removed snow.

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Public Works utilizes an Automated Vehicle Locator (AVL) system that tracks each piece of equipment via a Global Positioning System. From that data central dispatch can verify when and where a vehicle has been. We can also provide a list to our snow district managers of areas that are often easy to miss and ask them to verify. Visual checks continue during and after snow storms to verify that streets are passable.

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During the type of winters Springfield experiences, residential streets are likely to remain snow covered for a period of time. These conditions are similar to years past when central Illinois experienced much longer and harsher winters. There is often nothing that Public Works can do to take the place of reminding the public to drive for winter conditions. With snow covered streets, drivers should use caution, drive slower, provide adequate distance between you and the car in front of you, and allow plenty of extra time to get to your destination.

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As temperatures rise, Public Works crews work on streets to break up the snow and ice accumulation as best we can. Frequently the warming temperatures tend to remove much of the snow and ice before we can plow every street again.

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Salt is utilized on the city’s main streets, trouble spots and hazardous intersections as necessary. The city uses on average 6,000 tons each season. Salting 625 miles of streets and approximately 2,000 lane miles is not practical. The application of salt also takes a toll on the condition of city roads and when overused, can cause significant deterioration, resulting in additional road repair. In addition, Public Works does its best to minimize the use of salt in an effort to reduce our environmental impact from runoff.

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When temperatures drop well below freezing (15 degrees or less), applying salt to streets is ineffective. A liquid calcium mix is sometimes applied to trouble spots when temperatures drop to that level. This is used only for the most hazardous areas due to the harsh impact that its use has on the streets.

However, the use of this product is very expensive and difficult to apply. This calcium mix is also not readily available which is a likely factor in whether or not it will be applied. In most recent events it has rarely been used.

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It is difficult to tell what precise time your street will be cleared. To get more information on street conditions, residents can look at the snow inspection map on the city website at www.springfield.il.us During a snow storm snow district managers will be inspecting streets and updating the map. This will provide a guide to the conditions of streets throughout the city but is not intended to guarantee that a street is safe to drive and normal speeds. Winter driving requires that all motorists do their part to drive safe and appropriate speeds for conditions.

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The strategy of focusing on priority streets and then moving to side streets has been long standing and similar to how most communities approach snow removal. Public Works is also part of the American Public Works Association and annually evaluates and compares Springfield’s operation to other cities to insure we are applying best practices. While there are many variations to winter storms, as a general rule the procedures found in the City of Springfield’s Snow and Ice Removal Plan lay out the approach to snow removal with the resources that are available to the Public Works Department. We are always open to suggestions on how we can improve that process and encourage any who have such recommendations to please call us at 217.789.2255.