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Bridge, railroad underpass key priorities on transportation wish list

Agency looks to 2025

The Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council has set an ambitious, long range transportation plan for the region that includes a number of major projects.

The plan, which looks ahead to 2025, includes a new interstate bridge between White Salmon and Hood River, as well as an underpass in Bingen that will provide access to SDS Lumber Co. and the Port of Klickitat facilities at Bingen Point without the need to cross the busy BNSF tracks.

Known as the "Klickitat County Regional Transportation Plan" (RTP), the document -- released in February -- sets 2025 as the targeted "horizon year" for the infrastructure improvements.

"The RTP is intended to be a plan to meet transportation needs by implementing a regional transportation planning process," reads an excerpt from the draft executive summary of the plan. "The RTP is a collective effort to address the development of a safe regional transportation system that will support planned economic growth and maintain the region's rural quality of life ... The region must plan for a future regional transportation system that adequately serves the population, employment, and visitor growth projected for Klickitat County."

Among the local highlights:

Given top priority in a 20-year plan is building a new SR 35 bridge between White Salmon and Hood River.

At Cedar Street in Bingen, a grade-separated railroad crossing could be built. This would be an underpass allowing vehicles to access SDS Lumber Co. and the Port of Klickitat without having to cross the railroad tracks.

From SR 141 Alternate to Dock Grade Road, widen shoulders and improve the intersection.

Realignments of SR 141 from SR 141 Alternate to Northwestern Lake, and from White Salmon to Powerhouse Road.

Bingen City Administrator Jan Brending pointed out that most of the proposals are not likely to be acted upon any time soon. She said the Cedar Street underpass is way off in the distance.

"That's a wish list," she explained. "It's a proposal, and has not been designed. We'd love to see that happen, but it's not likely before the new bridge is built. They put the underpass on the list, but no one is working on that at this time."

In addition to the construction proposals, improvements to State Route 14 and State Route 141 corridors within Klickitat County are identified. A total of 18 projects are characterized as a "prioritized listing of needed improvements for the regional transportation system."

The "safety needs" list includes several stretches of road in the local area, including:

SR 14, MP 63.5-65.1 (SR 141 Alternate to the Hood River Toll Bridge);

SR 14, MP 65.9-66.6 (downtown Bingen);

SR 14, MP 76.1-76.9 (Lyle to Lyle tunnels);

SR 141, MP 1.0-1.4 (downtown White Salmon); and

SR 141, MP 4.6-5.6 (SR 141 Alternate to Powerhouse Road).

The two SR 14 tunnels just east of Lyle are singled out as the most serious zone needing improvements. The study cites an accident rate that is "above average."

"There are two tunnels along SR 14 in Klickitat County near Lyle. The accident rate is above average in the vicinity of these tunnels," read an excerpt from the report. "These tunnels have a 24-foot pavement width and no lighting ... due to low clearance at the outer edge, large vehicles will cross over the centerline when traveling through the tunnels. This creates a potentially dangerous situation, which is magnified by the lack of lighting in the tunnels."

Brending pointed out that while these proposals are many years away, there will be one big local transportation project taking place this year: reconstruction of Maple Street south from SR 14, across the railroad tracks and into the Bingen Point area.

"That will have major impact, because it's the access to SDS and the Port of Klickitat," Brending pointed out.

Work on Maple Street is expected to be under way by summer.


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