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Franklin council dismisses petition to close Egypt Road in Whately

The Executive Committee of the council — a five-member board responsible for overseeing county road actions — held a two-hour public hearing last week at the Whately Elementary School to hear the request of petitioners and neighbors to close Egypt Road. The petitioners called for complete discontinuance of the road under state law. The road would revert to the abutters and become private property.

“The (council) felt the petition was not complete and was unclear in what they were asking for,” said Whately Town Administrator Lynn Sibley.

The petitioners have the opportunity to submit a new petition in the future.

The council asked the neighbors to get verification from the state Department of Transportation about how the state originally planned to close the dirt road before rewriting the petition, explained Robbie Douyard, an Egypt Road resident and petitioner. Douyard said the petitioners’ lawyer, Mark Tanner of Northampton, is preparing to resubmit a petition.

The petitioners’ main concern is public safety, Douyard said. The neighbors are concerned that the railroad tracks create a threat to public safety, crossing too close to the petitioners’ homes.

However, town public safety officials say that it could take emergency responders an extra four minutes to reach Long Plain Road from State Road if Egypt Road closed.

The railroad crossing, which cuts through Egypt Road, is scheduled for an upgrade by the state Department of Transportation that would include new gates, flashing lights, audible warning devices and pavement for a 60-mph train that would come through.

The crossing is part of a project to bring Amtrak passenger train stops to Greenfield and Northampton.

Earlier in the year, the state asked the Select Board whether the town would prefer to close the road or keep it open. Keeping the road open would require the state to upgrade the crossing, which 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.

After three public hearings, the Select Board voted to keep the road open in June and some Egypt Road residents followed with their petition directly to the council.

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