Philly Deploys 374 Trucks to Deal With Storm

Streets commissioner says nearly all streets should be clear within 36 hours of snow's end.


With the snow continuing to come down on the region, the Philadelphia Streets Department says that it has 374 trucks out plowing and salting the roadways.

“We are constantly plowing and treating the primary and secondary streets,” says Philadelphia Streets Commissioner David Perri. “But due to the snowfall rate, even those streets become snow covered between passes.”

But that’s just the primary and secondary streets. It doesn’t account for the city’s immense residential street network, which comprises 40-percent of the total road miles in Philadelphia. Perri explains that the residential snow-fighting operation is separate from the one to combat the snow on the main streets and that specialized equipment is needed for the smaller streets. Residential streets are only plowed when the National Weather Service declares a winter storm warning, and obviously that threshold has been met.

“The residential snow-fighting operation is slower than the primary and secondary operation,” says Perri, estimating that it will take about 24 hours after the snow ends for the department to reach the majority of those streets. He adds that a small percentage of those streets — the smallest ones with a seven-foot wide “cartway” (Perri likes to use the word that dates back to ancient Roman times to refer to the area between the two curbs, aka the street) — might not see any treatment until as many as 36 hours after the last snowflake falls.

Perri anticipates that the city will open up the 311 line on Friday afternoon for complaints of unplowed residential streets, and we imagine that a lot of you will be making that phone call. 311 will also take complaints of unshoveled sidewalks, in case you want to dime out your neighbor. Residents have until six hours after a storm ends to create a three-foot wide path.

In addition to the annoyance of slippery streets, residents with Thursday trash pickup will have to hold their smelly refuse for an entire week, since the department needed to mount plows on its trash trucks to contribute to the operation. And rear driveway collections are suspended until further notice, but residents with rear pickup can bring their trash to the front curb. Perri says that any Wednesday trash not yet collected should be picked up on Friday and that the department will be working this weekend to catch up.

Go here to read a fascinatingly detailed interview with Perri about the city’s snow removal process. We interviewed him after the big ice storm in January that claimed the lives of three people.

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