Dock Grade Road has bubbled up to the top of the White Salmon City Council's agenda. Citizens will be able to voice their ideas in a public hearing on the evening of Nov. 19, and Mayor David Poucher pledges to allow plenty of time for everyone's viewpoints to be heard.
The issue has taken on heightened urgency in recent months due to a series of automobile accidents at the bottom of the hill where Dock Grade intersects with State Route 14. Visibility is impaired as vehicles turning onto Dock Grade block the view of drivers headed east or west on SR 14, and several solutions are being considered.
Poucher said the council will not make a decision this week, but will gather information and vote on what to do later.
"We're going to be wide open to listen to what the public wants," Poucher said. "I'm a firm believer that the more people thinking and working on solutions, the better chance you have in solving it. We'll see how it goes. We might decide not to change anything."
Earlier this month, Mayor Poucher received a letter from the Washington Department of Transportation (WDOT). The departments letter was in response to a letter Poucher sent to WDOT in October, in which Poucher asked for comment on a variety of proposals for Dock Grade Road.
"Our Traffic Operations staff has visited the site, collected traffic volumes and reviewed the collision history," read a section of the letter, which came from Chad Hancock, WDOT Southwest Region traffic engineer. "We found that site distance is obscured in both directions, making left turns difficult. Our seven year history review revealed 16 collisions, 10 of which involved a southbound, left-turning vehicle colliding with a westbound vehicle."
The city of White Salmon is considering several options to try to fix this safety hazard.
Make Dock Grade one-way going uphill. WDOT's analysis: "Reducing the number of turning movements will reduce the potential conflicts between vehicles in the intersection ... the prohibition of left turns would eliminate the problem."
Install a four-way stop. WDOT analysis: Because vehicles in all directions must stop, it is much easier for drivers to determine who has the right of way. The concern is that unfamiliar drivers could miss the sign, potentially resulting in a collision ... With no other stop signs on SR 14, installing one here would not meet drivers; expectations."
Install a traffic signal. WDOT analysis: "This intersection does meet warrants based on the traffic volumes. Unfortunately, we have more needs for signals than we have funding .. this location has been added to our Signalization Prioritization list ... Because we receive funding for only one or two signals per year, it most likely will be several years before a signal could potentially be constructed at Dock Grade."
Lower the speed limit on SR 14. WDOT analysis: "For Dock Grade, we found that the speed of ... 40 mph is set appropriately ... We found no other factors that would lead us to believe that a lowered posted speed would be appropriate."
Remove the right turn lane. WDOT analysis: "The concern is that removing the lane would force drivers to slow in the through lane, most likely resulting in an increase in rear-end collisions, negating any safety benefits that may have been realized."
The state reviewed all the options considered by Poucher and made a preliminary recommendation.
"We believe the most feasible proposal is the one way road on Dock Grade. This produces the highest safety benefit with the elimination of conflicts between vehicles," Hancock explained.
Poucher said he appreciated the state's thorough analysis of the issues, but noted, however, that the decision on how or whether to change Dock Grade Road would be made by the citizens of White Salmon.
"It needs to be the community that decides. What does White Salmon want to do?" Poucher said. "We live here, and we'll take evidence we have and I'm positive the community will make the right decision and influence the decision of the City Council members."
Access to the Mount Adams Chamber of Commerce/Park & Ride parking area across from Dock Grade Road is also under review and will be discussed at the City Council meeting.