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Curbing salt use on Madison’s wintry roadways

The city is trying to use less salt this winter. We all should.

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There are nearly 1,800 miles of traffic lanes in Madison that the city has to plow. | Photo by 608today

Once salt hits the ground, it doesn’t go away. Locally, it ends up in our lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands. It only takes one teaspoon of salt to pollute five gallons of water to a level that is toxic to native aquatic organisms.

For more than six decades, the salt spread on roads in the state during winter has negatively affected our surface water, groundwater, and soil.

That’s why the City of Madison recently noted that it will be salting 50 miles less road this winter. By doing so, the city will save roughly 270 tons of salt from degrading our environment.

With winter upon us, and with an eye toward conservation, what’s being done?

The City

The city of Madison’s salt route is nearly half of all Madison traffic lanes (of which there are nearly 1,800 miles). Every time snow begins to accumulate, the route will be plowed and salted. The Streets Division assigns 32 trucks to the route.

The rest of Madison’s traffic lanes, mostly residential, are not salted. Those snow-covered roads will be spread with a sand mix.

When there’s three or more inches of snow on the ground, the city deploys 150 pieces of equipment to plow every Madison street. Some of those pieces have fun names.

For further information on the city’s snow and ice procedures, go here.

The Citizen

You might not be able to save 270 tons of salt, but you can do your part. Wisconsin Salt Wise, a coalition of organizations across Wisconsin offering education regarding salt pollution, offers a handful of suggestions:

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Madison property owners are required to clear the public sidewalks that border their property. | Photo by 608today

  • Shovel.
    The more you shovel your driveways and sidewalks, the less salt will be needed.
  • Scatter
    You may not realize how effective salt can be. A coffee mug of salt is enough to treat a 20-ft driveway or 10 sidewalk squares.
  • Switch
    Salt doesn’t work when pavement temperatures drop below 15 degrees. In frigid conditions, use sand instead.

Note: Madison property owners are required to clear the public sidewalks that border their property.

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