Public Officials

Those responsible for funding and overseeing winter maintenance are in a tough spot. With ever-increasing pressures on municipal budgets, resources are limited, even for public safety. On the other hand, citizens expect their governments to keep roads open and safe — even when major snowstorms hit.

Voters have long memories when impassable winter roads cost them time, loss of income and inconvenience. Citizens and the news media often look for someone to blame. Just ask public officials in Chicago, New York, and even cities not accustomed to big snowstorms, such as Atlanta. Expectations are increasingly high, no matter where people live, when safety and the economy are at stake.

In light of this, here are seven actions public officials might consider:

  1. Frame winter maintenance as a public safety and economic issue. Safe winter roads protect lives and commerce.
  2. Read a study by the renowned global consulting firm IHS Global Insight showing how the negative economic impact of road closures far exceeds the cost of snow and ice removal. A Marquette University study found that deicing pays for itself a mere 25 minutes after salt is spread.
  3. Remind colleagues, with real-life political examples, that voters expect cleared, open and safe winter roads, no matter where they are.
  4. Encourage “sensible salting” and other environmentally sensitive practices that do not compromise on safety, and be certain the public hears about these efforts.
  5. Urge municipal employees to follow the Salt Institute’s Safe and Sustainable Snowfighting Handbook and Safe and Sustainable Salt Storage Handbook. Encourage them to apply for the Salt Institute’s annual Safe and Sustainable Snowfighting Award.
  6. Share resources on this site, especially the Roadway Safety Foundation’s Clear Winter Roads brochure.
  7. Use social media to keep informed and share your passion about safe winter roads. “Like” Safe Winter Roads on Facebook. “Follow” Safe Winter Roads on Twitter.
Helpful pages for public officials on this site

How safe Winter Roads impact commerce
How safe Winter Roads impact safety
How road salt works

Other resources

Roadway Safety Foundation’s Clear Winter Roads brochure
Road Salt and the Environment Fact Sheet
Minimizing the Environmental Impacts of Deicing
Federal Highway Administration data and index on snow and ice
Winter Weather Highway Safety: Preventing Crashes, Injuries and Deaths: American Highway Users Alliance (PDF)
Roadway Safety Foundation

Articles

Big Snow Storms Can Make Or Break Politicians (NPR transcript, audio)
Snow & Politics: A volatile mix (Chicago Examiner)
Nationwide snowstorms wreak havoc for businesses, economy
Mayors Grow Attuned to the Politics of Snow Removal (New York Times)
Politicians’ reputations can be buried by snowstorms (Washington Post)
Bloomberg Takes Blame for Response to Snowstorm (New York Times)

Video

The Salt Guru: Coping with Winter (Salt Institute)
Salt of the Earth: A Winter Weather Staple (CBS)
How the pros fight snow in Syracuse, N.Y (Highway Users Alliance)
Thumbs up to Frederick County, Md., snow and ice removal crews (Highway Users Alliance)
Cars sliding on ice like hockey pucks in Seattle (YouTube)
Cars, bicycles, pedestrians, wiping out on ice in the Netherlands (YouTube, forward to :52 for action to start)
“Ice Storm Insanity” slideshow(YouTube)