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Council Wants First Street Returned To Two-Way Route

Popular idea with support from businesses

With a petition listing most of the downtown business owners in support, Glassworks owner Robin Knoke asked the city of White Salmon to switch First Street from a one-way street (southbound) back to a two-way route.

Council member Brad Roberts said Knoke asked the city to make First Street a two-way road.

"He needs a place for a tour bus to park," Roberts said. "We just need the signs changed so the bus can go down the street. It's a popular idea with support from other merchants in the area."

Roberts said he was open to anything that could make life easier for downtown merchants.

"We need to make it so it works for our businesses," Roberts said. "Robin feels it's critical to his business. I like to be supportive of the downtown businesses and of businesses in general. This is something a merchant has come to us to ask for. I think it's pretty simple to change it in their interest."

In response, on the evening of Oct. 17, the White Salmon City Council voted 4-1 to return First Street to a two-way road.

Knoke explained that he has been getting tour buses coming to town to visit his shop, and wants to make the process more efficient.

"The bus will park behind the Glassworks, then come up the street and reload next to the building," Knoke said.

Knoke's petition asked the city to return First Street, between Wyers and Jewett Blvd., to a two-way street and, for safety concerns, place a stop sign and a "right turn only" sign where First Street enters Jewett Boulevard.

The text of Knoke's petition read: "Our customers will sometimes go `around the block' to the south, then west in order to access parking places along Jewett Blvd. When they do that, they find they are in a residential area with no route back to Jewett except by retracing to the east from whence they came. Furthermore, we see no reason for having it been made a one-way street except for accidents that occurred at the Jewett crossing. A right turn only mandate at Jewett would alleviate that situation."

First Street was turned into a one-way street about two years ago.

"There were a couple of collisions there that got attention, and it was changed to a one-way street," explained Police Chief Bruce Brending of the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department.

Brending said he would not object to seeing First Street run two ways again -- provided there is a "right turn only" sign at the intersection of First and Jewett.

Council member Timi Keene said she didn't agree with altering the street's one-way configuration, and suggested that having the bus parked in the street would offer strong tourism benefits.

"It would behoove the business community to have the parked bus be on the street instead of behind the Glassworks Building," Keene said. "The publicity to the city and to local businesses of having a tour bus there would be huge."

Local resident Don Tackley, who came to the council meeting, disagreed with Keene's view and said he supported the move to make the street two-way again.

"Having a bus parked on the street for hours would interfere with city business," Tackley said. "The owner needs a place to park it so it doesn't take up that space, so he's offering to park it on his own property."

Roberts said he wanted to see the measure approved that evening.

"It's time sensitive for Robin. If it's not approved tonight, it's not really going to be in time for the tourist season and it won't do him any good," Roberts noted.

Council members Roberts, Richard Marx, Susan Gookin, and John Mayo voted in favor of the change, with Keene voting against.

On Monday, Knoke responded to the council's vote of support.

"I'm happy with it," Knoke said.

Mayor Francis Gaddis said the change would take effect as soon as the city crews changed the necessary traffic signs.

"It'll go back to two-way, and you won't be able to make a left turn there," Gaddis said. "That's almost suicide -- by the time you're into the intersection where you can see, it's too late then."

On Monday, however, a spokesperson at City Hall said there were no plans as yet to change the street's one-way orientation, and indicated that more research might be needed before it would be done.

Roberts said he was surprised to hear that.

"That's not where I thought we were," Roberts said. "We'll look into that. I'm sure Robin will be interested in that as well. This shouldn't take an act of Congress."

"It's just frustrating," Knoke said. "I plan to do retail sales on the western side of my building, and spent $5,000 for a new door. I'm doing all this work, and the city comes along and sticks one-way signs up. They do anything they want without asking, but we have to get permits for anything."

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