State Route 14 is being reconstructed as a way to make the city of Bingen more attractive. Overall, when completed, the changes in Bingen are likely to be wonderful to behold and are likely to greatly enhance the business climate in the city's business district.
But there are exceptions to that prognosis, and Guler Oil's situation is one of them. The new bulbed-out curbs being installed at several downtown intersections are likely to have a restricting impact on some traffic. The concerns raised recently by Norm Guler, owner of the Shell station on SR 14 and the CFN card-lock facility on Depot Street, are serious. Eastbound trucks that could relatively easily make the turn onto Oak Street to get to the card-lock site before the new curbs are now going to face curbs jutting out several feet into the road. That will make it much more difficult for truckers to make the turn, and common sense suggests that many truckers will simply find a refueling site that offers easier access instead of negotiating the tight Oak Street turn.
Guler has been getting dozens of semi-trucks a day stopping to refuel at his card-lock station. Obviously, that provides a vital revenue stream for his business, which employs eight workers. In fact, most of Guler Oil's revenue comes from the Depot Street facility, and not from the manned gas station that faces SR 14.
The bulb-out curbs are attractive, but if a key local business is going to suffer because of them, the city needs to make sure it mitigates that problem.
To ensure that Guler Oil's revenue base does not plummet because of alterations the city and Washington Department of Transportation are making, the business deserves swift help from the city.
At its mid-September meeting, the Bingen City Council floated several ideas to alleviate the concerns facing Guler Oil. To their credit, council members came up with some ideas that Mr. Guler believes would address most of the constraints to traffic the bulb-outs would create.
But the suggested actions need to be undertaken soon, or Bingen may lose another small business that has been a solid contributor to the community's economic health.
Here's what needs to be done:
If trucks are directed onto Maple Street or Walnut Street to get to the card-lock on Depot Street, signs alerting drivers to the change need to be put up and put up soon. Those signs need to have the "CFN" card-lock logo on them so drivers know they can refuel at any time of the day or night. City officials said they weren't sure the WDOT would allow that, but the city needs to push it. After all, those blue "services" signs are common on highways all around the state. Guler's CFN logo needs to be on signs at each end of Bingen, and the logos for the other local service stations as well.
The other major task the city will need to work on is upgrading Depot Street. Currently, the road is in bad shape, with potholes and bumps and narrow spots where two semi-trucks could not even pass each other. That road needs to be paved and striped, widened as much as possible, and have a utility pole or two removed. In addition, parking areas must be marked to make sure the businesses along Depot Street still are able to come and go efficiently, with loading zones protected.
Rebuilding portions of Depot Street is already in the city's plans, but stepping up the pace of that work is important. It needs to be handled in terms of weeks and months, not years.
It's a big job, but to be fair to local businesses -- which are a big part of the foundation of the community -- the city should do no less.