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What you should know about Detroit’s snowplowing procedures

What you should know about Detroit’s snowplowing procedures

As the winter season unfolds, Detroit’s snow removal policy becomes a topic of significant interest to residents and businesses alike. The city has a well-defined and thorough strategy to ensure safe and passable roads during snowy conditions. This article aims to elucidate the various facets of Detroit’s snow removal policy, highlighting the steps taken by the city to manage the challenges posed by heavy snowfall.

Snow Removal Strategy

The City of Detroit’s Department of Public Works (DPW) is responsible for maintaining 673 miles of major roads and 1884 miles of residential streets. The city employs a three-level system for snow removal, which is activated based on the severity of the snowfall:

  • Level 1: For snowfall of 3 inches or less, DPW crews focus on major thoroughfares, using salting methods. Bike lanes are also salted, and all roads are expected to be cleared within 24 hours of the snow stopping.
  • Level 2: In the event of 3 to 6 inches of snow, DPW crews employ plowing and salting on major roads. Bike lanes are plowed and salted as needed, with a 48-72 hour window for clearing all major roads and bike lanes.
  • Level 3: When snow accumulation exceeds 6 inches, the focus is on plowing and salting major thoroughfares, with bike lanes cleared after vehicle travel lanes. In such scenarios, contractors are deployed to plow residential streets, with a goal to plow them at least 16 feet wide​​.

Parking Restrictions and Snow Emergencies

The city designates certain roadways as snow emergency routes, with signage posted up to 48 hours in advance to prohibit parking for plowing purposes. In extreme weather, a snow emergency may be declared, allowing police to ticket and tow illegally parked vehicles on these routes. This ensures that streets can be plowed from curb to curb, facilitating efficient snow removal​​.

Responsibilities of Residents and Businesses

Residents and businesses play a crucial role in Detroit’s snow removal efforts. They are responsible for clearing snow from sidewalks adjacent to their properties. The city mandates that snow removed from private property must not be deposited onto public roadways. Businesses, in particular, face fines of up to $1,000 for non-compliance with this regulation​​.

Warming Centers and Emergency Services

In response to the harsh winter conditions, Detroit has set up warming centers in collaboration with Cass Community Social Services and Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries. These centers provide temporary relief to homeless individuals and families, offering beds, meals, counseling, and other support services. They operate daily during the cold weather months, including holidays, and extend services during extreme cold temperatures​​.


Detroit’s snow removal policy is a comprehensive and well-structured approach to ensuring the safety and mobility of its residents during the winter months. The city’s commitment to maintaining clear roads and sidewalks, combined with the active participation of its citizens and businesses, contributes to a safer and more accessible environment for all.

By staying informed and adhering to the guidelines set forth by the DPW, residents and businesses can effectively navigate the challenges posed by snowfall in Detroit.

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