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State agrees to install warning devices at Dearing railroad crossings

It's been a priority of Mayors of Dearing for years and they finally can strike it off their lists. Dearing Mayor Sean Kelley received a letter from the Department of Transportation last week informing him "the department recommends active warning devices with gates arms be installed at the Main Street railroad crossing."

For Mayor Kelley, the letter could not have arrived at a better time. Right before the New Year, Mayor Kelley admitted in an interview with The McDuffie Mirror that obtaining the gates arms was "just about impossible," although he said he hadn't given up completely.

"I didn't think it was ever going to happen. I haven't heard nothing out of them, but now here it is," Mayor Kelley said last Thursday. "So there. I can knock another one off my list. ... I got it today, and today's my birthday. So see, everything is going just right."

Obtaining the safety devices has been on Mayor Kelley's list since he took office in 2006. The need was confirmed when he witnessed a train crash into a logging truck the same month he took office.

Since that time, Mayor Kelley has been in touch with the Department of Transportation, CSX Railroad Company and then-Senator Jim Whitehead regarding the issue with little results. And his predecessor worked just as hard without faring any better. When Mayor Kelley took office and vowed to get the gates arms, then-outgoing Mayor Ralph Menees wished him luck.

"I've tried for eight years to get those," he said at the time. "But the railroad and the DOT both agree that the flashing lights and bells are sufficient for that crossing."

According to the new letter from the DOT, the department conducted an engineering analysis in response to Mayor Kelley's request. The report revealed that Main Street is a rural minor collector paved road with documented daily traffic of 1477 vehicles which includes 45 school buses, five percent trucks and 17 trains.

"It wasn't a complete corridor study as we would typically do," the Railroad Crossing Program Manager with the Georgia DOT, Key Phillips, said in a telephone interview. "But my office is charged with keeping updated information on all railroad crossings in the state. ... And of course, we had the interest from the mayor of Dearing to look at the Main Street crossing. ... We intend to move forward with signal upgrades without any further action from the city."

In addition to arms, pavement markings and advance warning signs will be posted at both approaches to the crossing, as well as on Harris and S. Railroad streets, which run parallel to the railroad tracks.

Mr. Phillips said he could not give a time frame for the work to be done because it will happen as funding and priorities allow. Although the letter addressed two additional railroad crossings in the town, Mr. Phillips said the Main Street crossing was one "that the traffic counts targeted, and we see a need to go ahead with it."

Web posted on Thursday, January 10, 2008

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