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Deerfield selectmen seek delay in planned railroad crossing upgrade

The railroad crossing at Pleasant Street in South Deerfield, with the elementary school in the distance at right..
Recorder/Micky Bedell

The railroad crossing at Pleasant Street in South Deerfield, with the elementary school in the distance at right.. Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

SOUTH DEERFIELD — The Board of Selectmen is asking the state Department of Transportation to delay its planned upgrades to the Pleasant Street railroad crossing until the state justifies why it can’t move the crossing to Conway Street.

Selectman David Wolfram has requested the town send a letter to the MassDOT asking it to explain why it can’t open up the former Conway Street crossing instead of upgrading the Pleasant Street crossing, which is near the Deerfield Elementary School.

“The state has not come back with anything at all. We asked them to look at the Conway crossing and not Pleasant,” Wolfram said. “Our contention is, why not leave Pleasant Street alone or close it off and open up Conway Street? Closing the Pleasant Street crossing would essentially put the school on a dead-end.

The state is planning to re-configure rail crossings on Elm Street in the center of South Deerfield and on Pleasant Street in anticipation of the return of Amtrak passenger trains along that route between New York and Montreal.

To improve safety as faster passenger trains start using the tracks, the two crossings will see roadway and signal system improvements as well as sidewalk extensions to provide a clear pedestrian path through the crossings.

While the Elm Street crossing will see a new dedicated pedestrian path across the crossing and wheelchair ramps where the sidewalk crosses the railroad, a driveway or intersection, the Pleasant Street crossing will get a pedestrian path from the Deerfield Elementary School to the residential neighborhood on the opposite side of the tracks, according to current DOT plans.

The Selectmen are concerned with having a 60-mph train speed by the school where its property abuts the train tracks. Also, closing the crossing would eliminate often busy car traffic past the grade school to and from nearby Frontier Regional School.

Originally, the Conway Street crossing was closed because it was next to the former elementary school, which is now the Town Hall.

By order of Police Chief John Paciorek Jr., the state agreed to hold off its work on Pleasant Street until after the last day of school, which was yesterday. The original plan was to finish work by this spring.

The two grade crossings are part of a six New England-state initiative 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 stops in Northampton and Greenfield.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268 On Twitter, follow @RecorderKatMcK

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