Several members of the North Bank Masonic Lodge #182 are frustrated by a roadblock that prevents drivers leaving the lodge from turning south onto Washougal River Road.
Lodge Secretary Jim Cobb told Washougal City Council members during a council meeting June 12 that the Masons enjoyed vehicular access to and from their lodge building onto northbound and southbound Washougal River Road for 47 years without incident, but that a median now blocks their ability to access the southbound lanes.
The Masonic Lodge is located at 888 Washougal River Road.
A Salvation Army expansion project that includes the a new driveway and parking lot at 1612 “I” St., across the street from the Masonic Lodge, prompted the median’s installation June 1.
Washougal City Engineer Rob Charles said the median is a safety mechanism that will prevent drivers traveling northbound on Washougal River Road from turning left into the Salvation Army’s new driveway when another vehicle is trying to exit the driveway.
“This would create a dangerous situation for the left turning vehicle, since they would be vulnerable to a southbound vehicle on Washougal River Road,” Charles said.
He added that the contractor working on the Salvation Army project installed the barrier, but that the city required the median as mitigation for the one-way driveway.
During the City Council meeting, Ginger Graham, a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, said there are about 50 drivers who use the Masonic Lodge parking lot and that the inability to turn south onto Washougal River Road from the lodge presents problems for many Masons.
“Most people doing this are not young,” she said. “It is a true safety issue for our membership.”
Paul Haukaas, a member of the Masonic Lodge, said young drivers also may be impacted, since some the Masons sometimes hosts award ceremonies in their lodge building.
“The young people would be unfamiliar with the access (to Washougal River Road),” he said.
Cobb said later that the new Salvation Army driveway site, across from the Masonic parking lot, would be unnecessary if Salvation Army staff and the people who benefit from the social service programs exited on “I” Street.
“We must turn right out of our parking lot, then we must either do a U-turn at the end of the new curbing or turn up “I” Street and make a U-turn in order to return to Washougal River Road to go south, or cross the river, make a U-turn and returns south into town,” Cobb said. “It is very bad.”
Samantha Wheeler, pastor of the Camas-Washougal Salvation Army, said it was quite dangerous getting out onto Washougal River Road from “I” Street.
“There is a retaining wall on the west side of “I” Street as you’re trying to exit onto Washougal River Road that makes it very difficult to see past,” she said. “You have to pull way out into Washougal River Road to see beyond the wall and the curve in Washougal River Road.”
She added that the “I” Street option also presented other issues for drivers.
“We had a lot of problems with congestion on “I” Street due to traffic entering and exiting out of the same driveway in our old parking lot,” Wheeler explained. “By moving our exit down past the chapel building, we can now see beyond the retaining wall to pull out onto Washougal River Road.”
She said the city required the Salvation Army to install a median in the middle of Washougal River Road, in order to have the building plans approved.
“Unfortunately, having the median where it is prevents those going south on Washougal River Road from turning left into the Masons Lodge, but it also prevents us from turning left and going north up Washougal River Road out of our parking lot,” Wheeler said. “Due to the growth of our church and our social service programs, we needed to revamp our parking lot to meet current needs.”
In April, demolition crews tore down the old Salvation Army office building — a former house that had issues with flooding. Wheeler expects modular units will be in place and ready for use later this summer.
Charles said city staff will have more discussions regarding potential solutions for the accessibility issues.