Could Chicago Learn From Montreal's Snow Removal System?

Following last weekend’s historic Chicago blizzard, the area’s cleanup efforts have come under fire as residents complain of side street plowing and road conditions.

While the city says it has ramped up its efforts, even renting out more equipment, some residents say not enough is being done.

But when it comes to cleaning up large amounts of snow in an urban area, could Chicago learn from other cities accustomed to big snowfall?

Take Montreal, Quebec for example, which gets an estimated average of 82.5 inches of snow a year (Chicago's snowiest season on record saw 89.7 inches, and that was in 1977-78).

The city has implemented a snow removal system that focuses on four stages of cleanup.

The first stage is salting. On average, 140,000 tons of salt are used each winter and some 180 vehicles are used to cover roads and sidewalks, according to the city’s website.

Then comes the plowing stage. Plowing consists of moving snow to the sides of streets and sidewalks, making it possible for car and pedestrian traffic to resume quickly, the website states. There are 1,000 vehicles for plowing streets and sidewalks and those vehicles are deployed as soon as 2.5 cm of snow is on the ground.

A more unique step in the process is the loading stage, which involved picking up snow that was plowed to the side of the road. A machine takes the snow piles and shoots them into a loading vehicle.

Finally, the snow removal stage has trucks taking snow to one of 28 disposal sites. The average volume of snow taken to disposal sites is about 300,000 truckloads. Meltwater from the disposal sites is then recovered and treated according to environmental standards.

The city says cleaning up a snowstorm of more than 7 inches of snow costs about $17 million. The average snow removal budget is about $155 million.

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