White Salmon's only railroad crossing will soon be getting a safety upgrade. The city has been awarded a federal grant of $150,000 to install crossing lights and gates on the Dock Road crossing off State Route 14, adjacent to the Mt. Adams Chamber of Commerce visitor's center.
As of now, the road over the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway's Columbia River Gorge mainline is protected solely by a stop sign.
The sum covers engineering as well as construction of the crossing, which will include installing a concrete pad instead of the current wooden planking where automobiles cross.
Mayor Roger Holen said the crossing targeted for gates is a dangerous one, with a motorist's ability to see oncoming trains severely limited by the terrain and the vegetation-obscured lines of sight to the east and west.
"That is a disaster waiting to happen," Holen explained.
On June 18, the White Salmon City Council approved a measure that clears the way for the project to be completed.
"Basically, it was just a fancy way of saying we agree to use the money for the purposes intended -- to acquire crossing controls on the road," said Holen. "It's a formal acceptance of the grant money and acceptance of the terms and conditions."
Holen pointed out that the road leads to Vanguard Nursery as well as the tribal in-lieu fishing site/boat launch, and noted that boating and alcohol often go hand in hand.
"There is potential for alcohol consumption," Holen explained. "It's not uncommon to have a cooler in the boat. That's reality. And to have a situation where you're dragging a boat up the hill, when the line of sight is really short, it's dangerous. This should improves chances of survival at that intersection."
Holen said the gates might be installed as early as this summer or fall.