INDIANAPOLIS – The National Weather Service says Indianapolis got 4.4 inches of snow Tuesday night. That’s enough to make for some slick driving—but not enough for the city to send plows through residential streets.
“The Department of Public Works only plows residential streets in snow events of six inches or more,” said DPW spokesperson Lesley Malone.
That has been the city’s stated policy since 2008. It doesn’t look like that will change any time soon.
Some neighbors who live near the downtown area wish it would.
“I’m not agreeing with that,” said east side resident Cesar Franco. “They should be cleaning no matter what.”
City leaders said plowing residential streets during every snow event would not be practical. Covering residential streets would add 4,000 miles to the 6,000 miles of primary and secondary roads.
Malone said that’s just not realistic for a fleet of 90 trucks. She also said it’s unfeasible to call in contract crews for every two- or three-inch snow event.
“And the time frame would make it impractical for the morning commute and things like that,” she said. “It would not be possible.”
Different cities have different policies on plowing neighborhoods.
In Carmel, the trigger is three inches. In Anderson, the trigger is two inches. Greenwood officials said they automatically plow neighborhood streets whenever their trucks are sent out during a snowstorm.
It’s not very often that Indianapolis sees six inches of snowfall all at once, so plow trucks are a rare sight for neighbors like Jerry Dunn.
“If you got a sheet of ice on the bottom, it doesn’t matter if you get one inch,” Dunn said. “These roads are pretty hazardous just getting in and out.”
The city will call in contract drivers during extreme weather events like ice, even if less than six inches of snow has fallen.
There’s still no guarantee that the plows will be able to pass through some of the narrow, two-way streets where people park their cars on both sides.
“These streets are so small, if they plowed, then somebody might get plowed in,” said Rita Franco. “I really don’t know what the answer is to that.”
Unfortunately, the answer probably is that those narrow streets may never get plowed no matter how much snow falls—city leaders are standing by the six-inch policy.