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Harvard and Cambridge Strike Balance in Clearing Square of Snow

Slushy Streets

UPDATED: Feb. 14, 2013, at 12:55 a.m.

For John F. Nardone, Cambridge's deputy commissioner for public works, winter is a busy season.

“There’s a bunch of us here that deal with snow, and at this time of year it’s constant,” Nardone said. “We’re always thinking about what’s the next storm.”

With about 34 inches of snow so far this year, including about four inches that fell on Thursday, both Cambridge and Harvard have had their hands, and shovels, full, keeping the streets and sidewalks of Harvard Square clear.

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For the city, the number of inches forecast for each storm determines the type of resources deployed,

“With something like a two-inch storm or even storms less than that, where you get a coating or you get a little bit, we’re doing that strictly in-house, and we keep that to what we call a salting operation,” Nardone said.

This mild response calls for about 30 city employees and 15 pieces of city-owned equipment, he said, which keeps costs fairly low. However, once Nardone has to rely on contractors, that price tag goes up exponentially.

“Four inches is probably borderline for us, but really four to six inches, now we’re getting into contractors,” Nardone said. “Say we had ten events over this past season, maybe five or six of those we had to bring contractors in.”

This fleet includes 60 vehicles, from pickup trucks to salters, that clear more than 400 lane miles, a measure calculated by multiplying the number of lanes with the number of miles in each lane. For each mile of lane, the fleet will drop between 300 and 500 lbs. of salt, Nardone said.

Salt

Though he would not give specific salt totals or cost for a given season, Nardone said he uses up salt in a hurry.

“If you think of it in kind of bigger numbers, that’s maybe 60-100 tons every time we do a salting application,” he said.

For its part, Harvard relies on both in-house employees and equipment, as well as contractors, to get the job done.

“We manage a fleet of more than three dozen pieces of snow removal equipment and typically deploy more than 150 employees to clear snow across campus,” Michael D. Conner, the director for communications at Harvard Campus Services, wrote in an email to The Crimson.

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