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Will someone admit that Madison sucks at snow removal?

What are the things that puzzle, enrage, delight and tickle you as you go about your life in Madison?

Will someone admit that Madison sucks at snow removal?

Postby jjoyce » Mon Dec 13, 2010 10:49 am

Over 24 hours after heavy snow stopped, University Avenue is an icy, rutted mess. It's like driving on a lakeside gravel drive in Northern Wisconsin.

This is University Avenue, the biggest artery west of downtown.

How many times can the city use excuses like warm temps before the heavy snow to try and explain this stuff away? The truth is that less than a half foot of snow made the city essentially undriveable for half of the weekend, which I think most people can accept.

But with churches cancelling service and any number of other organizations calling off events, Sunday morning should have been ideal for getting a lot of snow off the big streets. Yet my street didn't see a plow until 7 pm last night (contracted road graders and front loaders from Wingra Stone) and driving around the west side this morning indicated that plows didn't drop their blades to the pavement on major streets.

Based on all evidence, these crews are committed public employees and they work very hard, but are they working smart? Is the strategy flawed? Are we just throwing darts at a board whenever the forecast calls for snow? This was nowhere near the "perfect storm" we keep hearing about from last year, it's nowhere near the blizzard we saw a couple years ago. But because of the frigid temps of early this week, the city is going to be full of fender benders and snarled traffic which I have to think will hurt holiday retail and affect workplace productivity throughout the city.

What's the story?
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Re: Will someone admit that Madison sucks at snow removal.

Postby TheBookPolice » Mon Dec 13, 2010 10:58 am

I'll be happy to say it.

The Beltline is gorgeous, yes. Stoughton's pretty nice, too. But Cottage Grove, all the way into town, is a mess.

I won't say that my neighborhood requires immediate attention, but I will say that the contracted plow guy ran one pass (a single car width) down the middle of our road, then left to do other streets, blocking our street in on both ends. When I was trying to clear out our driveway so my wife could pull the car in (we'd been out of town), he literally drove to within 3 feet of her car and backed her--literally, in reverse--all the way out of our neighborhood. She had no room to even turn into a neighboring driveway and got stuck in the drift the driver left behind her. A pedestrian had to help push her out.

He did a shitty job with the rest of the main streets in our neighborhood, in addition to being a dangerous asshole. We'll be filing a complaint. If he's an example of the kind of training these guys get citywide, then I can see where the city's in trouble every time it snows.
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Re: Will someone admit that Madison sucks at snow removal?

Postby Henry Vilas » Mon Dec 13, 2010 11:13 am

A little sand at intersections would be very helpful. Auto body repairs shops should be doing great business in the next few days.
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Re: Will someone admit that Madison sucks at snow removal?

Postby TAsunder » Mon Dec 13, 2010 11:22 am

I assume you aren't looking for any of us to admit it since this comes up every year. Supposedly they took some precautionary measures this year and applied some sort of snake oil prior to the first snow. Doesn't seem to have helped.
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Re: Will someone admit that Madison sucks at snow removal?

Postby green union terrace chair » Mon Dec 13, 2010 11:23 am

Saturday evening I saw a plow nearly run over a couple in a crosswalk after coming down the one-way part of South Hamilton in the wrong direction at 30 - 40 mph. That looked pretty exciting for them.
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Re: Will someone admit that Madison sucks at snow removal?

Postby fisticuffs » Mon Dec 13, 2010 11:25 am

Auto body repairs shops should be doing great business in the next few days.


They do great all winter long. Dropped my ride of this morning. Last Monday a 16 year old smashed the holy hell out of my parked car. I wouldn't expect the roads to be great today. We got a hell of a lot of snow. Its not just Madison. HWY 151 is a mess south by me in Mt. Horeb. Mt. Horeb itself which has a pretty good reputation for snow removal isn't great either. Of course we got a bit more snow there than Madison proper. We shoveled Saturday night after about 6 inches of wetness. It was already frozen slush at the bottom. Sunday morning there was another 6+ and it was still coming down. It's a big job. It's never going to go as planned. There will always be complaints.
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Re: Will someone admit that Madison sucks at snow removal?

Postby jjoyce » Mon Dec 13, 2010 11:27 am

Corner of John Nolen, Wilson and Blair this morning is a skating rink. That's one of the bigger downtown intersections. I get the salt thing, but when you have cars that are moving at responsibly slow speeds and still nearly sliding into each other, then you've got a dangerous situation. You don't have to use salt to remedy that, but you have to do something.
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Re: Will someone admit that Madison sucks at snow removal?

Postby snoqueen » Mon Dec 13, 2010 11:35 am

After the earlier snowstorm (last week, 2 inches tops) my street got plowed late at night by contractors as well. They had a big grader and front end loader in there, and did the entire street both sides including the cul de sac. They did a nice neat job, to their credit, and didn't hit anybody's car or make anybody go out backward (which sounds dangerous, if not illegal). However, it was a disproportionate effort for two inches of snow that wasn't stopping anybody from coming and going.

Then yesterday, city plows (I think) showed up around 7:30 pm and properly did the street following the 8-9 inch weekend storm. Quite often they leave us until last but I can see why since it's such a lightly-used street. Until they do our neighborhood, though, we're corraled. Big snow dikes on either side of Cottage Grove Rd., Atwood, and a couple smaller streets effectively keep anyone without 4-wheel drive trapped in the neighborhood until the plows come.

I would happily trade no plowing after the two-inch storm for plowing us out a little earlier after the larger one. I am sure nothing they can reasonably do would satisfy everybody, and it's a thankless job. But I join the rest of you in questioning the street department's decisions.

The trash pickup department in Madison is excellent, and it makes all the other departments look inferior. Maybe that's the nicest way I can put it.

Incidentally, anyone is free to put down the salt/sand stuff they leave in barrels on corners all over the city. It's there for us to use, so if your corner is dangerous and icy go out with an empty coffee can and spread sand if you can do so safely. Won't help at John Nolen and Blair, but it might at some little corner by your house. I always carry a plastic bucket of that sand in my car and use it throughout the winter. It's saved me a tow several times.
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Re: Will someone admit that Madison sucks at snow removal?

Postby Michael Patrick » Mon Dec 13, 2010 11:51 am

I had some clown (couldn't see whether it was a city truck or a contractor) come down my street Saturday afternoon BEFORE it even started snowing and drop a great big pile of slushy, dirty snow in my driveway with his blade. What the hell were we doing paying a guy to go around and plow BEFORE it even started to snow?

I had to go out in the freaking rain and clean it up, because if I had waited until later it would have froze solid.
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Re: Will someone admit that Madison sucks at snow removal?

Postby Bad Gradger » Mon Dec 13, 2010 11:59 am

No complaints about my street; it's plowed to almost the full width and the driver even made an effort not to totally obstruct our driveways and the corner sidewalk ramps. No bare pavement, but I wouldn't expect that. And the only really poorly done stretch of road I noticed was East Johnson at Pennsylvania (only two lanes plowed and neither of them well--between the curve and the cars crossing it's scary). The rest of it was about as good as I'd expect. We're going to get a certain amount of tradeoff for putting down half as much salt as a less environmentally concerned community would.

The real story is that Madison drivers are terrible at coping with adverse conditions. Those of us who learned to drive elsewhere find it frustrating.

Now, on the topic of a Vikings fan complaining about snow removal...
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Re: Will someone admit that Madison sucks at snow removal?

Postby persia » Mon Dec 13, 2010 12:02 pm

If it was before it started to snow where did the slush come from? Did he have a slush machine on board?

Michael Patrick wrote:I had some clown (couldn't see whether it was a city truck or a contractor) come down my street Saturday afternoon BEFORE it even started snowing and drop a great big pile of slushy, dirty snow in my driveway with his blade. What the hell were we doing paying a guy to go around and plow BEFORE it even started to snow?

I had to go out in the freaking rain and clean it up, because if I had waited until later it would have froze solid.
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Re: Will someone admit that Madison sucks at snow removal?

Postby gargantua » Mon Dec 13, 2010 12:05 pm

I had the same experience on my residential street Saturday. After having it not be plowed because the previous snowfall fell short of the 3 inch threshold, a plow comes through on Saturday before ANY new snow started coming down. I assumed they must have had some good reason for doing that, but it is not readily apparent.

The slush was from the previous unplowed snowfall btw.
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Re: Will someone admit that Madison sucks at snow removal?

Postby Michael Patrick » Mon Dec 13, 2010 12:09 pm

persia wrote:If it was before it started to snow where did the slush come from? Did he have a slush machine on board?

Michael Patrick wrote:I had some clown (couldn't see whether it was a city truck or a contractor) come down my street Saturday afternoon BEFORE it even started snowing and drop a great big pile of slushy, dirty snow in my driveway with his blade. What the hell were we doing paying a guy to go around and plow BEFORE it even started to snow?

I had to go out in the freaking rain and clean it up, because if I had waited until later it would have froze solid.


It was leftover slush from the previous snowfall.
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Re: Will someone admit that Madison sucks at snow removal?

Postby persia » Mon Dec 13, 2010 12:49 pm

Does anyone besides me shovel instead of using a snow blower? Where do you put the snow form the driveway in the part that runs through the nature strip? I mean three shovels full and the nature strip is over your head. I usually end up carrying it to a part of the nature strip that doesn't have too much snow but that adds a whole lot of work. What's the most efficient way to shovel?
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Re: Will someone admit that Madison sucks at snow removal?

Postby jjoyce » Mon Dec 13, 2010 12:50 pm

Bad Gradger wrote:Now, on the topic of a Vikings fan complaining about snow removal...


Is that a Metrodome joke?

Seriously, they do it right in Minneapolis. Declare a snow emergency early, tow all violating cars to an impound lot and scrape those streets.

Incidentally, the City of Lakes (I'm referring to Minneapolis here) isn't wild about using salt, either. After all, they have some pretty spectacular lakes of their own to protect, all of which see significantly more recreation than Madison's big two. Yet they manage to get the main streets clear soon after the snow stops.
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