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Selectmen vote to keep Egypt Road open

WHATELY — Egypt Road will stay open.

The selectmen voted recently to stick to their original decision.

“We heard both sides,” said Selectman Joyce Palmer Fortune. “It wasn’t something we did lightly. There were real safety issues on both sides. It seemed like it was in the best interest of the town to keep the road open.”

Plans set for the railroad crossing on Egypt Road can move forward with new gates, flashing lights, audible warning devices and pavement slated for the crossing. The $400,000 to $500,000 project is led by the state Department of Transportation as part of the plan to bring Amtrak stops to Greenfield and Northampton.

The selectmen made their final choice after three public hearings listening to the input of residents who live along the quiet gravel road who wanted it closed and business owners, neighbors and farmers who rely on the road.

The road’s fate is not a done deal, however. Egypt Road is a county road.

If the selectmen wanted to close the road, they would have had to make a recommendation to the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, who would hold its own public hearing and decide based on whether road closure meets the standard of public convenience and necessity.

But since the selectmen decided to keep the road the same, they did not have to make a recommendation to the COG.

It doesn’t mean others can’t ask the COG to consider road closure, however.

Bill Perlman of Ashfield, a long-time COG executive committee member, recently said anyone can make a request for road closure.

Robbie Douyard, a resident and strong advocate for road closure, said she will “speak with the neighborhood to find out what we want to do.” And she will consider going to the county herself.

The biggest influence in the board’s decision was the advice of Fire Chief John Hannum and Highway Superintendent Keith Bardwell to keep the dirt road open.

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

A traffic count by the Franklin Regional Council of Governments also swayed the selectmen. Though residents argued few people used the road and those that did used it as a speedway, the traffic count proved the contrary.

According to the traffic count, a total of 135 vehicles cross the Egypt Road tracks on a typical weekday, while 177 cross the road on the weekend.

Of those vehicles, an average 48 percent travel between zero and 20 miles per hour on a weekday while an average 5.1 percent travel 30 miles per hour or more on the road.

The Agricultural Commission also petitioned for the road to stay open for farmers, who use it to get from Routes 5 and 10 to Long Plain Road. The road serves as a safer route for slow-moving farm equipment.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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