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Side Street Snow Removal Takes Center Stage Post-Polar Vortex

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jan 10, 2014 3:05PM

Photo credit: Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist

Now that the polar vortex is gone and temperatures are warming across the area, attention is now turning to Chicago’s side streets where residents and some aldermen are kvetching that the Department of Streets and Sanitation isn’t working fast enough to clear them for traffic. Streets and San has done some cursory plowing along the side streets but much of what has been cleared has been from motorists simply driving as they return to their normal routines. Other streets remain gray, mush-covered expanses reminiscent of a 19th century frontier town.

As I wrote earlier this week Chicagoans will let a lot of things slide in local government so long as the streets are plowed in winter. With so much snow remaining on the streets some aldermen are raising the specter of Michael Bilandic once again and calling on the Emanuel administration to plow the side streets ASAP. Ald. Danny Solis (25th) told the Sun-Times “the side streets are a problem.” Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said his office has fielded over 250 calls complaining about side street snow removal the past couple days.

“They waited too long to get into the side streets before it froze. When the temperature dropped, it was almost impossible to run the plow. It was so rock-hard. They’re definitely passable, but they need a lot more work,” Waguespack said.

Let’s remember not all of this is Streets and San’s fault. The combination of last weekend’s heavy snowfall and the arctic air that followed resulted in a near untenable situation for Streets and San to handle. Currently more than 200 plows have been dedicated to the city’s side streets and, now that the temperatures are rising again, Streets and San should be able to tackle them with greater efficiency, so long as snow melting supplies are in stock.

That could be a problem. Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) said he received a call from a driver who was turned away from a salt pile on the Southeast side while trying to reload and was shocked to discover city trucks were being restricted to “one load of salt per shift.”

Per Sawyer and the Sun-Times:

“Now that temperatures are rising, salt can actually work. If they run out, I’m expecting trucks to reload. I want to get these side streets cleared for my constituents. They’re calling our office and complaining about it and it’s justifiable. I’m not trying to throw anybody under the bus. My people are working around the clock. I just want them to have the resources to be successful.”

Streets and San commissioner Charles Williams confirmed the one load of salt per truck limit, while Streets and San spokeswoman Molly Poppe said “Every single side street has seen a plow once and many have seen plows multiple times.”