Below are many of the topics and questions asked each year during snow season.
DPW Snow & Ice Dispatch number is 781-316-3301.
National Weather Service - Massachusetts: Watches, Warnings and Advisories
Snow Plow Contractors
The Town of Arlington Department of Public Works is in the process of hiring contractors for snow plowing & snow removal services for the upcoming 2019/2020 winter season. If you are interested in applying to become a contractor for the Town, please complete & return the application form here.
Standard Snow Removal Procedure
Every storm is different but the Town uses the following process during a typical event. When a storm is forecast the highway division of the department kicks into high gear. We consult and review several different weather reports including our own site-specific forecast and develop an action plan for that storm. An anti-icing operation is started 1-2 hours before the predicted event. Main streets and large feeder roads are pretreated. A two-truck patrol is on duty at this time checking all roads in Town for current conditions. If a potential for freezing conditions exists then a full scale salting operation will commence. If the forecast is for more than 2 inches of snow accumulation then a plowing operation will be initiated. Depending on the severity and duration of the storm the operation could include as few as 2 vehicles to over 60 pieces of equipment. In a full-scale operation over 2/3 of the equipment on the streets will be private contractors working for the Town.
Snow and ice operations are conducted on a 24-hour a day, 7 day a week schedule. The DPW aims to keep clear all main routes and feeder roads and maintain a clear driving track on either side of the centerline on secondary streets within 6 hours of the end of snowfall. Residential side streets will be cleared within 8 hours of the end of snowfall. Cleanup operations after the end of the storm may continue for up to 24 hours or longer.
Snow Emergency/Parking Ban Declarations
When a major snow event is predicted the Town will declare a snow emergency/parking ban. The decision on whether a storm is a “major snow event” involves a consideration of such elements as the size of the predicted storm, amount of snow already on the ground, time of day, day of the week etc. Once a Snow Emergency is declared the information is relayed to local television and radio stations, Arlington Alert, Town Notice, the Town's social media channels (Facebook and Twitter) and posted on home page of arlingtonma.gov. You can also receive any of these notifications by subscribing to them. You can subscribe to them in the Communications Center.
During a Snow Emergency a parking ban is in place for a minimum of 24 hours on all streets and parking lots. Individuals who impede the snow removal operations during a snow emergency are subject to ticketing and towing.
Even when snow emergencies/parking bans are lifted, cars are not to obstruct roadways in accordance to Traffic Rules and Orders, Article V Parking, Section 1 (e), which prohibits the parking of a vehicle “upon any roadway where the parking of a vehicle will not leave a clear and unobstructed lane at least ten (10) feet wide for passing traffic.” Not all streets can accommodate parking within this rule when snow accumulates. Parked cars violating this rule will be subject to ticketing and towing. Please be cognizant of where you park your car at all times.
School closings will be announced by local TV and radio as well as posted on the home page of the School District website.
You can read the school's inclement weather policy here.
Protecting Environmental Resources
MassDEP’s snow disposal guidelines apply to all public agencies and private businesses disposing of snow in the Commonwealth. Please be aware that snow disposal into a wetland, riverfront, pond, lake, stream, or floodway is prohibited and a violation of both the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act Regulations and the Town Bylaw. Plowed snow is often contaminated by road salt, sand, litter, and automotive pollutants. As snow melts, these contaminants are transported into surface water or through the soil where they may eventually reach the groundwater. Road salt and other pollutants can contaminate water supplies and are toxic to aquatic life at certain levels. Sand washed into water bodies can create sand bars or fill in wetlands and ponds, impacting aquatic life, causing flooding, and affecting our use of these resources. If you have questions please contact the Conservation Commission. To locate environmental resources in Arlington, please view the interactive Wetland and Floodplain map.
The DPW is constantly looking for innovative methods and equipment to improve our snow and ice operations. In recent years we have shifted away from the use of sand as it does not have any deicing capabilities and it leads to dirty and dusty streets, degraded water quality, poor air quality, and clogged catch basins.
Pavement temperature sensors are used to help us tailor the application of anti-icing products for storm specific needs.
New products like “ice ban” - a natural byproduct of the fermentation process - are used as anti-icing agents to retard the development of an ice pack which is the enemy of a successful snow and ice removal operation.
Ground speed controls are being installed on some of the large snowfighters to help reduce the amount of salt used in our operations due to uneven application of materials.
What Can I Do to Help?
The Town of Arlington is dependent on the cooperation of all to have a successful snow and ice control operation.
The bylaws of the Town require residents and businesses to remove snow and ice from any sidewalks abutting their property following a storm. Compliance with this bylaw is a key element in keeping the Town of Arlington a safe place in winter. Failure to comply with the bylaw can result in a fine of $25 to $50 per day. The full text of these bylaws can be found in Title III, Article 1, Sections 24-26.
According to Town Bylaw Title III, Section 33 moving snow into public ways, such as streets, is also prohibited by Town bylaws and is subject to fines of $25 per day for non-compliance. The full text of this bylaw is available here.
According to Town Bylaw Title III, Section 15, cars parked in roadways during snow removal operations can impede removal progress and is prohibited by Town bylaws. Residents are encouraged to park their vehicles off-street during these events so Public Works can complete the task more efficiently and with better results.
According to Town Bylaw Title III, Section 30 the discharge of water on public ways is prohibited. Puddling and freezing of water in the street or walkways creates hazardous conditions for pedestrians and motorists.
After the Winter Storm
- Keep roads clear to allow plowing operations to proceed smoothly.
- Use care around downed power lines. Assume a down wire is a live wire.
- Check in with your neighbors, especially those that may need assistance.
- Help dig out fire hydrants and storm drains in your neighborhood.
- If you live on a corner, clear a path from the sidewalk to the street. If not precisely on the corner, as close to the corner as you can get.
- Avoid parking too close to corners, allowing Public Safety vehicles and plows to maneuver safely.
- Be aware of children playing in the streets, particularly climbing on or running out from behind large snowdrifts. Parents should remind their children to be aware of plowing operations and traffic.
- Clear exhaust vents from Direct Vent Gas Furnace Systems to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Never run an automobile until exhaust pipe has been cleared of snow.
- Make sure backup generators are well ventilated.
- Take your time shoveling. Avoid overexertion.
- For homes heated by oil please be sure a safe route is available for delivery to your oil fill pipe.
- Clear flat roofs and decks to prevent accumulation of snow/ice over the season. Read safety tips here.
When traveling during the winter months it is advisable to have the following items in your vehicle:
_ Booster cables
_ Candles and matches
_ Snow shovel and scraper
_ Flashlight and extra batteries
_ Extra clothing – hat, mittens…
_ Non-perishable food
_ Cell phone
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. If my street is not plowed in a timely fashion where should I call for help?
A. The department keeps a snow and ice operations center open during all storms. Contact the operations center at (781) 316-3301.
Q. Why is the snow only plowed to my side of the street?
A. The large snowplows used by the Town have fixed-angle blades and are not adjustable. On dead end streets or one-way streets this causes the snow to only be plowed to one side of the street.
Q. Why does it take the Town so long to get to my street?
A. The Town has over 120 miles of streets to take care of and in order to keep the Town safe we focus on the main routes and feeder streets first and then the side streets after that.
Q. Why does the Town go out before the storm starts?
A. If the DPW is able to prevent a snow pack from forming on the streets we will be able to use less salt on the streets in the long run and it will also take less time for the department to cleanup after the end of the storm.
Q. Why are sand buckets placed around Town?
A. Sand buckets are placed around Town for use by residents on icy patches that may develop on the road or sidewalk. Sand is also available at the DPW Yard at 51 Grove Street if residents wish to fill up a can to keep in their vehicle during the winter.
Q. Will my trash still be picked up?
A. In other than the most extreme situations trash collection is not suspended due to a storm. If you are in doubt please call JRM at 1-800-323-4285.
Q. Who determines when the schools will be closed?
A. The school department makes that decision by 6 a.m. on a “snow day” and posts the information on local radio and television stations as well as their call-in line - (781) 316-3510 and posts online at arlington.k12.ma.us.
Q. Where can I get help with shoveling my sidewalk?
A. For Arlington seniors, contact the Council on Aging at (781) 316-3404 to inquire about their LINKS program (Linking Neighborhood Kids with Seniors).
Q. Why is the snow pushed into the end of my driveway?
A. This situation in unavoidable. The plows strive to remove the snow from curb to curb for maximum clearance of the roadway. This is done to provide for drainage and public safety.
Q. Why do the plows push back the snow at the corners?
A. Snow is pushed back at street intersections in order to preserve sight lines for drivers and pedestrians and for street drainage. Large snow mounds at street corners create a hazard for the driver and walker alike.