Finding Solutions to Manage Snow

With over 15 million square feet of parking lots, roads, sidewalks, steps, and ramps, snow removal on campus is a big undertaking. It is a 24/7 operation with the goal of keeping the campus open to vehicle traffic during any winter storm event and clearing pedestrian routes within 24-48 hours after the snow ends.

Safety and accessibility are always the top priority. In particular, the snow removal teams work to ensure that patients can get to the hospitals safely. They clear roads so that buses can continue transporting people across campus. And they clear pedestrian walkways so that students and faculty can safely get to class (even if they’d rather have a snow day!).

Grounds Services has approximately 50 full-time and 30 student/temp workers who work in shifts to clear snow from roads and pedestrian routes in five campus zones. Logistics, Transportation & Parking (LTP) staff maintain all of the parking structures on campus, as well as half of the surface lots. Twenty-three full-time employees work day, afternoon, and midnight shifts to get the job done.

The scope of snow removal is so large that Grounds Services and LTP work with another Business and Finance unit, Procurement Services, to hire contractors to provide snow removal services for about half of the surface lots on campus.

Snow removal staff clear snow using pickup trucks and utility vehicles equipped with rotary brooms, plows, liquid deicer, and snow blowers. U-M is expanding the use of non-salt deicers to protect the environment and infrastructure. (Learn more in a future installment of this series!)

What happens to the snow after it’s removed from a sidewalk or lot? To clear roads and pedestrian routes as quickly as possible, Grounds Services and LTP pile snow in approved locations throughout campus, then a fleet of semi trucks works through the night to haul the snow to off-site locations.

Even U-M’s paratransit drivers, who provide transportation for students, faculty, and staff with disabilities, step up when it snows. Sometimes a paratransit vehicle reaches its destination before it has been plowed, despite the best efforts of Grounds staff. If the ramp can’t deploy to the curb, the driver grabs a shovel to clear the snow out of the way.

So when the next snowstorm hits, now you know how B&F staff Make Blue Go by clearing snow as quickly as possible to help people move around campus safely.