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Whately decides to keep Egypt Road open

WHATELY — Egypt Road will stay open and get an improved railroad crossing.

The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted this week to keep the dirt road open to its roughly 10 residents and one business, Amherst Trucking.

As a result, the state Department of Transportation will upgrade the crossing to include gates, flashing lights, audible warning devices and pavement. The upgrade would cost $400,000 to $500,000. There is only a railroad crossing sign as a warning now.

The state considered closing the crossing because of the low volume of traffic on Egypt Road and because it is a dirt road, said Tim Doherty, the director of rail programs at Mass DOT. It was one of 23 public crossings cited from Vermont to Springfield for possible closure in 2010 as the state works to restore Amtrak’s intercity passenger train service.

The board’s main concern in closing the road was safety. “Emergency access is a real issue,” said Selectman Paul Newlin.

“If Egypt Road closes and something happens on Christian Lane, what is the response time for emergency vehicles to East Whately?” asked resident Fred Orloski.

The road is also popular among residents driving to Muffin’s General Market or headed to Interstate 91.

“We’re never going to get this back if we give it up, ” said Selectman Joyce Palmer Fortune.

The project is part of a regional effort to restore Amtrak’s train service to its original route. It will relocate the Vermonter from the New England Central Railroad back to Pan Am’s tracks through Whately, Deerfield and Greenfield.

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