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Whately to consider closing Egypt Road


Selectmen in Whately are expected to make a recommendation Monday on whether Egypt Road should close due to safety concerns about its railroad crossing, seen above looking east. 
Recorder/Paul Franz

Selectmen in Whately are expected to make a recommendation Monday on whether Egypt Road should close due to safety concerns about its railroad crossing, seen above looking east. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

— The Select Board will make its final recommendation on whether Egypt Road should be closed to vehicular traffic at its Monday meeting.

The state Department of Transportation has asked the town to decide whether it would prefer to close the dirt road or upgrade the railroad crossing that cuts through it to make it safe for cars and pedestrians to cross.

Concern over the crossing’s safety arose due to an effort by the six New England states to restore Amtrak’s intercity passenger train service to its original route by relocating the Montrealer from the New England Central Railroad back to Pan Am’s tracks through Whately, Deerfield and Greenfield. The project would expand the intercity passenger rail service in the Interstate 91 corridor, between White River Junction, Vt., and New Haven, Conn., with possible stops in Northampton and Greenfield.

The state is considering the possible grade crossing closure because of the low volume of traffic on Egypt Road, which has about 10 homes and one business, Amherst Trucking.

The Egypt Road crossing, if kept open, would need an approximately $400,000 to $500,000 upgrade that would include gates, flashing lights, audible warning devices and pavement.

The grade crossing is on the Connecticut River rail line. In 2010, the state reviewed grade crossings throughout the Connecticut River valley. At that time, the Egypt Road crossing came up as a candidate for possible closure.

There are many factors for the Select Board to consider. On one hand, there is a question on how road closure may impact the response time for emergency vehicles. Emergency vehicles would have to use Christian Lane to get from Long Plain Road to routes 5 and 10.

On the other hand, there is the safety concern. Although it will not be high speed rail, under the rail restoration plans, trains would increase their speed to 65 mph, making it dangerous for vehicles using the crossing.

“There are a lot of pros and cons that are all very good arguments for and against road closure,” said Select Board Chairman Jonathan Edwards. “I don’t believe you make these decisions quickly. We are doing our due diligence and taking all residents’ thoughts and perspectives into consideration.”

Because Egypt Road is a county road, the Select Board will make a request on whether to close the rural road to the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, which would make the final decision.

The Select Board asks that residents with concerns contact them at townadmin@whately.org.

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