Dock Grade Road is presently closed as a precaution but it will soon be re-opened as a one-way route for uphill traffic from lower White Salmon to upper White Salmon.
Patrick Munyan Jr., the city's administrator and public works director, announced near the end of last Wednesday's City Council meeting that directional signs to that effect had been ordered and would be posted as soon as the necessary repairs to the failing section of roadway have been completed. (The City Council earlier this month authorized spending up to $10,000 on repairs.)
"That's what the Washington State Department of Transportation would like to see us do," Munyan told Mayor David Poucher and a council quorum of Bob Landgren, Clyde Knowles, Mark Peppel and Adrian Bradford, with WSDOT's primary concern being the number of motor vehicle accidents that have occurred from downhill traffic turning onto State Route 14. (Councilor Ricky Marx was granted an excused absence.)
Munyan's announcement was based on a presentation given by the city's geotechnical engineering consultant, Dee Burrie, P.E., of Shannon and Wilson, who opined that "anything you do to (the road) will be an improvement."
The City Council retained Shannon and Wilson to perform a safety review and geotechnical study of a slumping section of Dock Grade's southside lane. Consultants bored two test holes on site and "found about a 10-foot layer of loose silt material, and it overlays bedrock," Burrie noted.
That material, he went on, is not compacted, which makes it subject to sliding, especially when moisture is added. Burrie said the problem of undermining is compounded by the fact the northside ditch through which stormwater is supposed to flow has been poorly maintained.
"If the water is managed properly, and you repair the damage correctly, you can extend the life of the road, but it is our opinion that it will continue to slump because of the loosely compacted soil underneath," Burrie said.
He added, "This particular place is where it manifested itself this time; next year it might be some place different."
In the final issue, after some prodding from Poucher, Burrie recommended that the city repair, then re-open Dock Grade Road as an uphill-only route -- one way up in order to get traffic off the outside edge where roadway failure is most evident and problematic, and to eliminate the hazard of vehicles turning onto SR 14.
"One way, uphill would probably be the easiest solution to implement," Burrie said.
Several community members spoke and urged the City Council to take appropriate steps to reopen Dock Grade Road as quickly as possible -- preferably to two-way traffic.
Chris Parker, owner and operator of Poppy's restaurant in downtown White Salmon, told the City Council his business has been struggling since the closure of Dock Grade, which went into effect at the start of tourist season.
"I don't know if we will be there in a couple of weeks," Parker said. "I put my life savings into this (venture), and I'm about to lose it. A lot of service businesses like mine rely on the season. I'm just wondering if there isn't something that could be done to get the road open for the next couple of months...I need these two months."