The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Streets And San Promises They're Ready For Anything This Winter

By Chuck Sudo in News on Oct 31, 2014 2:00PM

Photo credit:Dawn Mueller

Budget hearings have been ongoing all week at City Council and Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles Williams has promised his department would be prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws Chicago’s way this winter.

Williams said the main lesson Streets and San learned from their handling of Chiberia (such as it was) was that “it was a really hard winter. But we want to be prepared for even worse.” Winter 2013-14 was Chicago’s coldest in nearly a century and Streets and San had a hard time (to say the least) keeping the city’s arterial streets passable. Hopefully one of the things Williams and his department learned was how futile it is to salt streets in subzero temperatures. Streets and San spent $11.2 million on snow removal in the first week of 2014, the majority of that on salting roads. The department’s “toss some salt at the ice and hope it melts” philosophy severely depleted the city’s road salt supply and became a budget buster, led to aldermen complaining about unrealistic expectations regarding snow removal, with a domino effect that included hiring contractors to haul salt to Chicago from out of state, a record number of pothole damage complaints and pockmarked streets that haven’t been completely repaired. And here we are on the cusp of another winter the Farmer’s Almanac says will be as bad as last year’s. (The National Weather Service says to expect a “normal” winter with only 38 inches of snow.)

Williams said the city has a stockpile of 346,000 tons of salt and expects to have 400,000 tons on hand by mid-November. Streets and San has added 19 new salt spreaders and four new 4-wheel drive trucks so Chicago Public Schools students can get to class and ensure Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s war on public education continues unabated. We do hope Williams and Streets and San is judicious in how they throw salt around this winter. Cities across Illinois began stockpiling road salt so that they weren’t caught empty-handed. But the demand outstripped supply and 180 communities couldn’t procure road salt through a state program, forcing them to seek outside contractors to fill their needs at significantly higher costs.