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Chicago to provide free sidewalk snow removal services in four areas, Mayor Brandon Johnson announces


Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration on Friday took the next step toward making the “Plow the Sidewalks” campaign a reality, announcing a pilot program next year to provide city-run snow-clearing services in four areas across the city.

The pilot will cost between $1.1 million and $3.5 million in those zones, according to a report released by the Johnson administration. Though the Chicago Department of Transportation will oversee the program, the city will tap into outside contractors for the snow removal services, which would activate when there are at least 2 inches of snow on the ground and can be used up to seven times per area throughout that year.

“Chicago is a world-class city, and as a world-class city, it must be accessible for our seniors and individuals living with disabilities in the winter months during periods of heavy snow and ice,” Johnson said in a statement. “Our Plow the Sidewalks pilot program is an example of how our administration is committed to addressing the needs of all Chicagoans, and today is an important step forward in building a safer city where no resident is left behind.”

The four 1.5-square mile chunks that will benefit from the 2025-2026 program are: a “West Side Zone” including the Austin and Belmont Cragin neighborhoods, a “Southwest Side Zone” including Gage Park and Brighton Park, a “South Side Zone” including Englewood and a “North Side Zone” within Uptown and Lincoln Square.

“Plow the Sidewalks” caught fire in 2021 when a coalition of transportation and disability advocates campaigned on the idea that Chicago can afford the free service during the winter, when the physical labor of shoveling snow and ice can be strenuous or even dangerous for some. Alds. Gil Villegas, 36th, and Daniel La Spata, 1st, led that push within the City Council via an ordinance calling for the pilot, along with the mayor’s working group that released the Friday recommendations.

“We’ve seen other municipalities are already providing this service, and now Chicago is a step closer to joining them,” Villegas said in a statement. “Over half a million residents will benefit from a city sidewalk plowing service. The end goal is to improve mobility citywide, especially for our seniors and members of the disability community.”

The next steps entail the bidding process for the snow removal vendor and appropriating funding for the pilot in Johnson’s 2025 budget, which City Council will vote on in the fall.

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