Columbia County is moving closer to finding a solution for a couple of railroad crossings on the outskirts of Harlem.
In recent weeks, the county has closed two crossing in the area to study them and find better ways to move traffic in the area. The closing came in the wake of an accident earlier this year that claimed the life of a Harlem woman.
Carlene Flakes was killed earlier this year. The 53-year-old Harlem woman died on Jan. 14, after a train hit her 1993 Ford Aerostar while she was waiting at a stop sign at the Planer Mill crossing to Gordon Highway.
At issue is the amount of space between the tracks and the road. In some spots, a longer vehicle - like a van or a large pickup truck - stopped at the stop sign and waiting to pull into traffic is hanging too close to tracks.
"This is an issue that is not going to go away any time soon," said Construction and Maintenance Director Kevin Lear.
Lear has reviewed all the crossings in the county and found two that are of concern: one at Iron and Steel Drive in Martinez and one at Sawdust Road and Gordon Highway in Harlem.
The fix for the one in Martinez is pretty simple: officials will change some of the signs in the area to allow traffic to cross the tracks without stopping on the other side.
The changes in Harlem are a little more convoluted. First, the Sawdust Crossing and the crossing at the old sawmill will be opened. Then, officials will close the dirt part of North Hicks Street at the sawmill crossing - leaving access to the sawmill property, but eliminating through-traffic.
Plus, the county will hire a consultant to study the area and find alternate locations for a crossing.
"(The Sawdust Road crossing) is just not what it should be in my opinion," said Lear.
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