This year’s extremely cold and snowy winter has left the vast majority of municipalities in the Chicago area with a shortage of salt, including the Village of Oak Brook. In an effort to preserve salt supplies, Village staff was asked to come up with a salt conservation plan that would stretch their current supply as long as possible. Many communities in the area had it worse and were forced to not salt any residential streets or were forced to use a sand/salt mixture which can have an adverse effect on surround ecosystem. It was determined that Oak Brook had enough supply left to salt busy and trouble areas, but not enough to salt long stretches of residential subdivisions. Based on this initial assessment, the next step was to identify the trouble areas that need to have salt and inform the snow plow drivers where they should and should not salt during and after a winter weather event.
It was determined by public works staff that the best approach to this issue was to work with the Geographic Information System (GIS) department to identify and map all intersections, steep hills, and heavily traveled roads. As shown in the above image, areas that need to be salted are clearly highlighted in red for drivers to use as a guide while plowing during future storm events. Using these maps as a guide, this conservation initiative allowed for the Village plow drivers to spread approximately half the salt as they normally would in a typical snow event.
By using GIS to display this information, the Village not only provided their drivers, administration and emergency services with a clear image of what areas are being salted, but actually conserved salt and developed a plan that can be easily implemented in similar situations in the future.