‘We all play a role’: City of Madison prepares for ice, snow this winter

MADISON, Wis. — Salt is a necessity in surviving a Wisconsin winter, that’s why the City of Madison’s street division keeps a healthy supply of it. But while they make sure they’re stocked for the season, city officials also train plow drivers to conserve, for more reasons than one.

Each winter is a balancing act: Use too little salt and the roads aren’t drivable. Use too much, and it ends up in our drinking water. According to Streets Division Spokesperson Bryan Johnson, a few mitigation strategies allow the city to maintain an equilibrium with the salt.

“We’re trying to use some of these even more tools to be even smarter about our salt deployment,” Johnson said. “We try to pretreat the roads where we can when we can.” 

Pre-treating roads with a salt brine is one of many practices city employees use to avoid over-salting. But it isn’t always an option: If rain is in the forecast, city employees cannot pretreat the roads for fear that the additional water could dilute the brine.

“We need conditions perfect to pretreat like that,” Johnson said. 

Other ways the city keeps salt use to a minimum is sticking to specific main roads and training plow drivers on conservation strategies.

While some Madison residents are frustrated by the lack of salting on their roads, Johnson says it makes all the difference in keeping the salt out of our water supply.

“The only real way we’re going to use less salt on the road is to use less salt on the road,” he said. 

Johnson’s main message for home and business owners this year? Use less salt. Madison’s city website offers multiple ideas on cutting down on salt use on its website.

As for drivers? Slow down and be patient.

“We all play a role in this and being safe for our winter when it comes to driving slow and salting our own sidewalks and driveways,” Johnson said.