FAIRFIELD — The town intends to close off two downtown railroad crossings this week as it begins the final stage of a rail improvement project that started more than three years ago.

Starting as early as Tuesday, public works crews will erect barriers on either side of the crossings on Elm and Willow streets, turning the streets into dead ends, said Town Manager Josh Reny on Monday.

Signs alerting residents that the crossings are closed to traffic will be put up at the same time the barriers are erected.

The closings of the crossings will be permanent, and the town intends to discontinue maintenance on three out of the four new dead-end roads created in the process. The town is discussing the possibility of deeding the streets to abutting property owners, Reny said

Snowplowing on the roads once they have been turned into dead ends would be a “nightmare” because there would be nowhere for the plow trucks to turn around, Reny said.

The town’s public works department will tear out the asphalt at the Elm and Willow streets crossings before the area is landscaped by the Maine Department of Transportation. The Department intends to plant trees and build earthen berms at the former crossings, according to Reny.

Construction and landscaping work aren’t expected to start for another two or three weeks, Reny said.

Turning both sides of Elm and Willow into dead ends triggers a new process, as the town moves to discontinue maintenance of the streets.

The town is discussing transferring the streets’ deeds to abutters, including the First Baptist Church and another resident on Elm Street and Acme Alarmed Storage on Willow Street, according to Reny.

The town will continue to maintain the western side of Willow Street, which runs through a residential area and connects to Maplewood Cemetery, he said.

Public hearings and a formal council vote will likely be required before the town discontinues the streets, Reny said.

Closing the Elm and Willow street crossings is the capstone to a prolonged effort to get decrepit railroad crossings in town repaired.

Residents have complained for years about crossings on tracks owned by Billerica, Massachusetts-based Pan Am Railways. The crossings, on a mile-long stretch of rail running through downtown Fairfield, were in such an advanced state of disrepair that residents regularly complained to the town office about the damage done to their vehicles by driving over them.

Two years ago, the town, in consultation with Pan Am and Maine Department of Transportation, started discussing closing the crossings at Elm and Willow streets to attract federal rail safety funding to put towards improving other rail crossings in town. The entire project was estimated to cost $900,000.

The federal government provides funding to shut down railroad crossings because each one carries a collision risk, and Fairfield has six crossings clustered in a short distance. The Elm and Willow street crossings don’t have gates or other safety measures.

Starting in November 2013, repairs were finally completed on the crossings at Summit and Burrill streets, and more repairs were conducted on Western and Lawrence avenues and Upper Main Street last summer.

According to Reny, the vast majority of the work, aside from closing the crossings on the two streets, has been completed, although there are still some signal improvements to be installed on other crossings in town.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

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Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire