Wednesday, February 1, 2006
Dock Grade Road is again open to two-way traffic.
Last Thursday, a geologist from the Washington Department of Transportation came to town to inspect the hillsides above and below the narrow roadway.
The inspection did not turn up any unusual dangers along the route.
"The bottom line is, it's no more dangerous now than it was six weeks ago," explained White Salmon Mayor Roger Holen. "On Thursday, the geo-tech gave it his blessing."
The road was reopened on Friday morning.
On Jan. 9, an automobile-size boulder and other large rocks had fallen onto the road, knocking a tree onto the right of way in the process.
Wil Keyser, director of the White Salmon Public Works Department, said engineer Stoner Bell of Bell Design Co. in Bingen also inspected the hills above Dock Grade Road.
"His evaluation was that there was no more destabilization," Keyser said. "The big rock was undermined by wet and freezing weather, and that dislodged it. When it came down, it brought down other rocks and a tree."
During the Jan. 18 meeting of the White Salmon City Council, Keyser said the city would review its options before reopening the road.
"It's not any worse, but it won't be the last rock to come down and we can't know when it will happen. So if we use the grade, we need to use appropriate caution," Keyser explained.
Holen added that safety was the primary issue.
"The city's Public Works Department will evaluate the site weekly, and during heavy rain runoff and heavy freezing and thawing, we'll close it down," he said. "Anyone who has driven I-84 and other roads in the area knows that there is rock all over the place. This is not unique to the city of White Salmon by any means."
As a precautionary measure, Holen said the city had ordered "Watch for Falling Rocks" signs, to alert drivers to the possibility of a rockslide on the roadway.
"We're going to do some additional signage," Holen said. "With the rain we've had this year, there have been lots of problems up and down the Gorge, as we all know."