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Egypt Road in Whately could be discontinued

In an Aug. 23 letter to the council, Northampton lawyer Mark Tanner, representing the 13 petitioners, said the residents are seeking a complete discontinuance of the road according to state general law Chapter 82, Section 1. The road would revert to the abutters and become private property.

The letter is in response to a request by the council for residents to clarify their request to close the rural dirt road.

The Executive Committee of the council — a five member board responsible for overseeing county road actions — rescheduled a public hearing to Sept. 18 at 6:15 p.m. in the Whately Elementary School to consider the request. The original date was planned for Sept. 12.

The residents petitioned for road closure in June after the Board of Selectmen voted to keep it open following three public hearings. The selectmen cited public safety officials’ advice in their decision. Officials said it would take an extra four minutes for emergency responders to respond to Long Plain Road from State Road if Egypt Road closed. Local farmers have also argued they use the road as a safe route for slow-moving farm equipment to get from Routes 5 and 10 to Long Plain Road.

The residents have argued for road closure because they claim it is under-utilized and much of the traffic is generated by themselves. The residents also complain of speeders on the road.

In deciding to close a county road, the council considers whether road closure meets the standard of public convenience and necessity.

According to Tanner, if the road is discontinued, the residents would have to maintain the road rather than the town. Property lines would extend to the center line of the road. The residents are asking for discontinuance on both sides of the road that is cut by a railroad crossing.

The future of the railroad crossing initially raised the issue. Earlier this year, the state Department of Transportation asked the selectmen if they wanted to close the road or keep it open.

Keeping the road open would require the state to upgrade the crossing for $400,000 to $500,000. The crossing is part of a project to bring Amtrak passenger train stops to Greenfield and Northampton.

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