MADISON, Wis. — A Madison streets spokesperson said the division was “not thrilled” with road conditions over the last week that caused complaints.

What You Need To Know

  • Many roads, including main thoroughfares, were covered in ice for over a week

  • Madison Streets Division spokesperson Bryan Johnson said the staff was not satisfied with that outcome

  • Now, they'll start searching for better solutions

  • The last time Madison had a snowstorm then arctic air for a week was in the 1970s

Since the snowstorm on Jan. 12, numerous streets were coated in ice. That included main thoroughfares, not just residential roads. Much of it started to clear Monday, as temperatures were finally above freezing.

Madison Streets Division spokesperson Bryan Johnson said plows were out all day Jan. 12 and Jan. 13. However, he said temperatures dropped so low so fast, and the snow was falling so fast, that between visits from the plows, the roads would freeze.

Salt is not effective when it’s below 20 degrees.

“We’ve never had that big snowfall and then a bunch of cold in the last 20 years,” Johnson said.

He said it has been more than four decades since Madison has had a similar weather pattern.

“It was 1979 was the last time that happened,” Johnson said. “New Year’s Eve 1978; we got eight inches of snow. The next 10 days, we never hit 15 degrees.”

Johnson said the Streets Division had only bad options. Using salt early on in the storm could result in huge swaths of ice on the streets. Their only other choice was to plow through it.

“No one was thrilled with how this went,” he said.

Complaints rolled in both to the Streets Division and the mayor’s office.

“Some of them have been just like full of swears. Well, that one’s just unreasonable,” Johnson said. “Some have been more thoughtful. Some have been like, ‘My street’s slippery; please fix that’. Okay, let’s do that.”

The Madison Police Department shared data that showed the roads were more dangerous.

There were 120 crashes reported from the first snowstorm on Tuesday, Jan. 9 to Sunday, Jan. 21. That’s a 16% increase over the previous two-week period.

“It wasn’t great being in Madison. That’s underselling it,” he said. “We all drove on those roads, too.”

Now the Streets Division will look into other ways to be prepared for these kinds of conditions. Johnson said it’s too early to discuss possibilities without brainstorming with his team. Any solutions would have to either fit into the established budget or be approved as part of a new budget.

“[We’ll] dig in to see what are these other things that what can we do. And what’s the smartest thing for us so we just don’t wind up in this sort of boat again — where it’s when the streets are this rough for a full week,” he said.

Johnson said for residents who want to know more about the plow operations can sign up for plow updates.