Whately road closure up to county
WHATELY — If the Whately Select Board decides to keep Egypt Road open, opposing residents could go before the Franklin Regional Council of Governments on their own to ask for its closure.
According to long-time COG executive committee member Bill Perlman of Ashfield, anyone can make a request to close a road.
“Technically, anyone can make a recommendation to the council to close the road,” said Perlman. “Generally it is the Select Board.”
The request comes with a cost. To ask for closure of a county road, a person must submit a request form with a deposit to cover the cost of the closing.
Those costs include the price for an engineering layout of the road, which could amount to $2,000.
The COG can then decide to schedule a site visit and hold a public hearing.
Input would be sought from all Franklin County residents, not just those who live in Whately.
When deciding whether to close a county road, the COG considers whether it would meet the standard of public convenience and necessity, Perlman said. Often a road is closed if it is unused, he said.
Egypt Road may have trouble passing muster. According to a traffic count by the council, a total of 135 vehicles cross the Egypt Road tracks on a typical weekday, while 177 cross the road on the weekend. Many of those vehicles are farm vehicles. If the road is discontinued, the land reverts to the abutters.
Another case to discontinue a county road is if the town wants to take ownership.
In that case, the council discontinues the road and the town accepts it as a town road.
Though the state asked the town to choose what to do with the road, it is still the county that makes the ultimate decision. “It’s our choice,” said Perlman. “A county road is owned by the county. No one else has control over a county road.”
A committee member since the COG’s inception, Perlman cannot remember a time when it declined to close a road.
The future of Egypt Road has become a controversial debate.
The state Department of Transportation asked the Select Board to recommend whether to close the county road.
The Egypt Road railroad crossing was one of 23 public crossings from Vermont to Springfield listed for possible closure in 2010 due to its low volume of traffic and because it is a dirt road.
If the road stayed open, it would require the state to upgrade the railroad crossing that cuts across the center of the road. For $400,000 to $500,000, the improved crossing would include gates, flashing lights, audible warning devices and pavement.
In February, the Select Board voted to keep the road open, but reconsidered after 10 Egypt Road residents protested. Meanwhile, some local farmers and the police and fire chiefs have urged the Select Board to keep the road open.