Citizens weighed in last week about what should be done with Dock Grade Road, and their views were clear: No one thought turning it into a one-way road was a good idea.
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.
During a public hearing before the White Salmon City Council on the evening of Nov. 19, citizens spoke about the safety problems with the road that connects State Route 14 with State Route 141.
Wayne Carlock, White Salmon's former fire chief, said he didn't think making Dock Grade one way would be a wise approach, but pointed out that it would not hamper operations by emergency vehicles.
"I'd hate to see it be one way, but if you make it one way, you can still let emergency equipment go up or down Dock Grade. It doesn't matter about the one way rule in an emergency," Carlock said.
Jim Andring, a police officer with the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department, said he was speaking as a citizen in offering his views.
"Every car you take off Dock Grade will put another car somewhere else," Andring said. "If you consider the number of cars on that road and number of collisions, the number is almost insignificant."
White Salmon resident Shirley Cox said the problem is not with the roadway, but rather with the intersection where it connects with SR 14.
"I use Dock Grade a lot. In 20 plus years of driving there, there have ben very few wrecks or problems on Dock Grade itself," said Cox. "It's the intersection. We didn't create that intersection there, the state did. My feeling is, the state needs to fix the problems they created."
Chad Hancock, a regional traffic engineer with the Washington Department of Transportation, came to White Salmon to offer his views of the situation with Dock Grade Road. Hancock said turning Dock Grade into a one-way road represented the most efficient option to eliminate the safety issues.
"That produces the highest safety benefit with the elimination of conflicts between vehicles," Hancock explained.
Hancock also suggested closing the middle of the three currently existing entrances to the Mount Adams Chamber of Commerce office/park and ride area on SR 14, across from Dock Grade Road.
"We recommend definitely closing that center ingress," said Hancock.
Police Chief Bruce Brending agreed that was a problem.
"The middle one needs to be addressed; it's just not safe," Brending said.
Mayor David Poucher said the issue of what to do about Dock Grade Road and access to the park and ride lot would next go to the council's City Operations Committee.
"They will make recommendations and bring them back to the council," Poucher said.
That committee, chaired by council member Richard Marx, will hold a meeting on Dec. 11, at 6 p.m., in the White Salmon Fire Hall. The meeting is open to the public.
"I'd appreciate as much attendance as possible, so we can come to some conclusions," said Marx.
Marx added that he believes the main problem with the Dock Grade/State Route 14 intersection is that drivers are not being careful enough.
"People just barge out there, they're just not paying attention," he explained. "You have to look twice. I can't remember any accidents on Dock Grade itself, but at the intersection, people are not paying attention."
Solutions being considered include making Dock Grade a one-way route, with uphill the preferred option; installing a four-way stop at the intersection; installing a traffic signal; lowering the speed limit on SR 14; and removing the right turn lane onto Dock Grade.
Another option that came out of last week's meeting is allowing right turns (westbound) only from the bottom of Dock Grade Road.
However, Hancock said that might make matters worse.
"People will jump over or go around the medians if we make it a right turn only. That could make it even more hazardous," Hancock explained.