A thick layer of ice that hasn't budged off Madison streets prompted officials on Monday to make the unprecedented decision to spread salt on every residential street in the city.
The massive salting operation was in advance of a major snowstorm expected to start in the evening and continue into Tuesday.
Officials said this is likely the first time all Madison streets were salted since the city instituted a salt route policy in the 1970s.
That policy calls for salt to be applied to 32 "salt routes" in the city, including major thoroughfares, bus routes and streets near hospitals and clinics but only use sand used on residential streets, if needed.
"The unprecedented decision to salt each street in Madison was made after it became apparent the sand/salt mixture previously spread on residential streets was not effective in breaking through the ice layer on the roads," Streets Division Superintendent Charlie Romines said.
"The sand used by the Streets Division is mixed with a small amount of salt, primarily because the sand is stored outdoors and the salt is necessary to keep the sand pile from freezing solid," Romines said. "It was the hope that the salt within the sand would melt the ice, but that did not occur."
Putting salt down on the ice today should allow the ice layer to melt sufficiently so when plows are dispatched Monday evening when the snow stars to fall, the trucks will have enough traction to push the snow off the roads.
Salt will be applied at 200 pounds per lane mile in the residential neighborhoods, compared to 300 pounds per lane mile on the salt routes. Madison has about 800 lane miles of streets.
"Salting each street is a singular decision in response to unique weather conditions," Romines said. "The Streets Division will not continue to salt each street in Madison in response to normal winter conditions."
Updates on the plowing operations in Madison, and whether a snow emergency will be called in the city, can be found online at http://www.cityofmadison.com/residents/winter/