Lowry "hill of death" resident seeks solution to winter ordeal

Ron Mason surveys the damage around the front yard of his Lowry Hill home: a stout brick pillar

is tipped to one side, a section of wrought iron fence is knocked flat, a pedestrian street light on the boulevard is broken and lying on the ground.

It has been another tough winter at the bottom of what one resident refers to as "The Hill of Death."

Mason lives at the intersection of Dupont Avenue and Groveland Terrace. Dupont snakes down a steep hill from Mount Curve, making a "T" intersection with Groveland Terrace. If cars can’t stop, they jump the curb heading straight for Mason’s fence.

The hill doesn’t look imposing now, shining in a spring rain.

"The problem is when you get that icy snow, 30 to 34 degrees — rain, ice, snow," Mason said. "Cars slide backwards and sideways, it’s the closest thing to the luge event in the Olympics."

It would be comical if it weren’t so scary.

Mason has lived in the house since 1996 and said the fence gets hit two to four times a winter. He and his wife Jacqui don’t let their three-year-old daughter

play in the snow in the front yard for fear of another accident.

City Councilmember Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) told members of Lowry Hill Residents Inc. that the hill is on a list of areas that should be plowed, salted and sanded within an hour of a snowfall.

Mike Kennedy, director of field service for Public Works, said the hill is on a list

of areas that need early attention, but there is nothing about providing service with an hour.

"We can’t guarantee any time frame of response," he said. "There is an expectation that we can respond everywhere in town immediately. We don’t have the resource, to do that. We will respond as best as we can."

During the last big snowfall in early April, Goodman said the plow driver didn’t attempt the hill because it was too dangerous. (Mason estimates six to eight people came careening down the hit that day, hitting his fence.)

The plow driver had reason to worry. Mason said one icy day in the late 1990s, 19 cars, one police car and a snowplow lost control on the hill.

On another occasion, a snowplow turned over in his yard, Mason said. It wrecked the sidewalk and spilled sand and salt, killing vegetation.

Goodman said next year, if the hill were too icy to plow, the snowplow driver would put up temporary barricades to block traffic. Public Works may put up a big concrete planter on Mason’s boulevard to add another barrier.

Years ago, Kennedy said, Public Works had barricaded the hill during the winter. "There was a lot of outcry from residents, and people who lived on that hill, that it was unsatisfactory," he said.

Mason said he is going to meet with Goodman and Public Works staff May 9 to talk about solutions for next winter.

"This is not about a wrought iron fence," he said, it’s about "whether someone eventually gets killed or run over."

It will take more than public education to fix the problem, Mason said. He recalled a conversation he had with one woman involved in an accident at the foot of the hill.

The woman told him she called it "The Hill of Death."

Replied Mason: "Then why do you come down it in the winter?"