Monday, October 25, 2010

The 411 on stop422tolls

Driving around town over the past couple of weeks, you may have noticed red & white signs among this fall's crop of campaign signs, promoting a website ( This website is solidly against the idea of tolling Route 422 to raise money for the Commonwealth, and hopes to defeat the re-election hopes of the only elected official to come out in favor of it, Paul Drucker, the freshman Democrat state congressman (House) for the 157th district. But what's behind the movement? 

Put together by a group of residents from Audubon (Montgomery County) and Chester County, the effort is also championed by the Valley Forge Patriots. These are folks frustrated by current traffic congestion in the area and are strongly against any efforts to toll 422, which they view as adding to existing traffic problems in addition to objecting to the uncertainty surrounding what would be done with any tolls collected. In addition, other local elected officials have also come out against tolling 422, including Mike Vereb, John Rafferty, and Rep. Tom Quigley (Pottstown). Mike Vereb is on record as stating tolling of 422 is "a reckless idea" and that he is 'vehemently opposed to it".

As background - over the summer, representatives from the  Montgomery County Planning Commission, Chester County Planning Commission and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission presented their 422 Corridor Master Plan outreach program to various local municipalities. A new transit line, as well as tolls on Route 422 may be in the area’s future (albeit probably not in the immediate future). A possible rail line is seen as an option to provide an alternative to traveling by car — extending transit service beyond Norristown along an already-existing rail line.

The aim of the 422 Corridor Master Plan is to provide a comprehensive approach to planning development in the 24 corridor municipalities in Chester, Montgomery and Berks counties. An important element of the master plan is how to handle growth, development and the ever-increasing traffic on 422. The plan suggests the widening and maintenance of 422 in addition to ramp and interchange improvements, and according to Leo Bagley, assistant director of the Montgomery County Planning Commission, any funds raised by tolling would have to go first toward maintaining 422 and secondarily fund a rail line.

The county planning commissions took the 422 plan ‘on the road’ to each of the municipalities and asked elected officials and residents to provide comments. Township supervisors were asked to consider adopting a resolution endorsing the master plan’s principles and strategies. Getting the municipalities to work together in partnership with the county planning commissions was the goal of the road trip. Lower Providence heard the pitch at their June 17, 2010 meeting, with Board of Supervisors chairman Rick Brown stating that they (the Township) would try to adopt a resolution supporting the 422 master plan as soon as possible. Supervisor Chris DiPaolo motioned to adopt it at the July 1, 2010 meeting and the motion passed unanimously. (By contrast, two supervisors in Limerick Township went on record before they voted to endorse the plan on July 20 as being specifically opposed to any option to toll on 422).

 It is my understanding that the tolling of 422 is still considered a possibility to help offset the major land developments costs contained in the 422 Corridor Master Plan, although Drucker and others have suggested that the proceeds from tolls would go to fund the creation of the proposed 62-mile Schuylkill Valley Metro rail line, which thus far SEPTA has been unable to move forward. 

But seriously, though, when's the last time any government entity collected money which was supposed to be a 'dedicated funding source' (for whatever purpose) and actually used it for that? I have little to no faith it would happen in this scenario either. And ESPECIALLY when it comes to Harrisburg; I don't trust them to spend taxpayer money where it says it will. One need only remember the gaming legislation that allegedly was going to go towards funding property tax relief — well, guess what, folks, that money is being used for sports stadiums, to build college campuses, etc. And nothing has changed in property tax world. 

While Drucker has taken pains lately to flip his position and walk his earlier comments back, he was an early and vocal supporter of tolling 422, for whatever reason the funds would be collected. In an April Times Herald interview, he admitted he was not fully acquainted with some of the issues, but said the tolling of Route 422 to pay for the Schuylkill Valley Metro transportation project, was "a good idea".

Then, in May, he was thus quoted in the Times Herald "“I believe a light rail line to alleviate traffic on 422 has the potential to benefit our region, and I believe it can be funded in such a way that local residents don’t get stuck with the bill". Ahem....anyone who lives in a community surrounding the 422 corridor is going to get stuck with something, be it paying a toll for the privilege of sitting in traffic longer once ON 422, or being stuck with the cost of repairing wear & tear to local roads from the traffic driven off 422  by cars trying to avoid paying a toll.  And, as Rep. Vereb noted in a September 22 speech, "it would take catastrophic amounts of money to make it [a rail line] happen and would be a catastrophic waste".

In my opinion, tolling on 422 would be a horrible turn of events for Lower Providence. Any improvements that have been made in traffic flow (intersection improvements, traffic light coordination etc) - particularly in the Audubon area - over the past few years would evaporate as hundreds, if not thousands, of additional cars flood local roadways to escape tolls and idling cars sitting on 422. Many of those roads are roads that we LP taxpayers are on the hook for maintaining, and we just borrowed money to repair and upgrade - improvements that have to last the ten years it will take to pay off the loan. 

If you live in any of the areas of Lower Providence that are represented by Rep. Drucker (most of Audubon, Shannondell, and the area of Trooper surrounding Woodland Elementary School), I urge you to vote for his opponentWarren Kampf, Nov. 2 for state rep. And if you know anyone in any of the areas of LP or Chester County that are represented by Rep. Drucker, I suggest calling them, making sure they know where he stands on the toll issue, and asking them to be sure to get to the polls that day to vote him out. The best scenario? Join together at the polls, and make sure Mr. Drucker has to get on a toll road home after packing up his office when he's voted out on November 2.


Lisa Mossie said...

Excellent post, Janice. If a Schuykill Valley Metro line would alleviate traffic on 422, maybe suburban lines in the Philly would alleviate traffic on the Schuykill Expressway?


Anonymous said...

Anybody who supports tolling on 422is out of their gourd. I work five miles from where I live and only need to use one exit. Some days, it takes me over an hour to go that distance. I could literally walk to work faster. I can only imagine how bad it would be if they had toll boths installed.