Now What?!! Route 422 to be a toll road??!!
Posted in the Eagleville Forum
#1 Nov 17, 2010
Theoretically, demand drives the market for goods and services.
But let's face it, sometimes marketing is used to create demand for something we never knew we wanted, or to overcome objections to something we actively dislike.
Did we ever know we needed a hula hoop before a television commercial told us we did?
How about the pocket fisherman or knives that can slice through a can and still cut a razor-thin slice of tomato?
But now the power of marketing may face its ultimate test.
Can a marketing campaign make people want to pay a toll on Route 422 to help improve the road and fund a passenger rail line?
The folks at 422plus sure hope so.
Branding a 'political black hole'
With a study looking at how much money a toll on Route 422 might generate due out early next year, the coalition of entities examining the issue has kicked off a campaign to build public support for charging to drive on a road we now all traverse with closed wallets.
"422plus" is the new "brand name" for the coalition pushing the idea.
It is comprised of PennDOT, Chester, Berks and Montgomery counties, Norfolk Southern Railroad, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the Berks Area Regional Transportation Authority and the Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association.
The publicity effort is a way to "build public support" for the idea of implementing a toll, said Eric Frary, who works for the engineering firm of Michael Baker Jr. Inc., the consulting firm conducting the tolling study.
"We want to be proactive about getting information out there and dispelling some of the misconceptions that seem to have built up among the public officials," Frary said.
Municipal leaders in both Pottstown, Limerick and East Coventry to name a few have refused to endorse tolling.
Frary described the current support for the idea among public officials as "a political black hole."
Smile for the camera
So now a visitor to www.422corridor.com will soon find 21 videos of support from "stakeholders" like Don Shanis, deputy executive director of the DVRPC, and "man on the street interviews," with people like Michael Schrank of Royersford.
New videos will be added every Monday through this month.
Given that those examining this idea freely acknowledge they can find no viable alternative for funding the long-delayed rail line; or other improvements to the road which now carries some 45,000 vehicles through Pottstown daily and reaches 110,000 a day by the time the road crosses the Schuylkill River at Valley Forge, it should come as little surprise that those videos show people who support the idea of implementing a toll.
In one video, Schrank says he would support the toll as long as it "wasn't unreasonably high" and said he would "even think about ditching the car altogether" if he could instead take a passenger train into Philadelphia.
In another, Phoenixville Hospital CEO Steve Tullman says an improved Route 422 is essential to the economic health of all three counties.
"They have to get moving on this," Tullman tells the camera. "Even if you started road improvements today to 422, it would still take a long, long time."
"People are very frustrated. If we free (Route 422) up and make it less congested," said Donald Shanis, the deputy executive director of the DVRPC, "we can make it an economic engine for the region."
Turnpike prices eyed
Although Frary said it is too soon to reveal any of the preliminary results, he did acknowledge that the study's conclusions will be based on toll levels comparable to those of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
The turnpike now charges 8.5 cents per mile and, when a 3 percent toll price increase goes into effect in January, will become, in the words of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette headline writers, "the nation's costliest toll road."
#2 Nov 17, 2010
The working hypothesis is that a toll of 11 cents per mile or $2.75 for a one-way trip going the full length of Route 422 would finance the major improvements that traffic engineers would like to build in the next 10 years.
The $625,000 tolling study was funded with $500,000 from the Federal Transit Administration of the Federal Department of Transportation,$62,500 from PennDOT and a total of $62,500 from the three counties.
Frary said planners are not yet ready to release specifically what the study will demonstrate, because those working on it are double-checking their numbers. "We want to be very conservative" with the estimates, Frary said.
However he did say the study will conclude that "we think (tolling) is viable."
Natasha Manbeck, director of transportation services for the Chester County Planning Commission, offers the inevitable caveat that "looking into tolling does not mean that tolls are inevitable."
She adds, however, "We simply have no funding to improve and maintain our infrastructure to provide additional capacity to address the congestion."
Which is in and of itself a cost, said Shanis.
"Some would argue that people in traffic jams on Route 422 are paying in 'waiting time' for the congestion problem right now," he said.
Alan Piper, transportation planner the Berks County Planning Commission, pointed out that the road is not truly free.
Drivers have "always paid for that road in terms of their gas taxes, in their vehicle registration and in their license fees," he noted, adding "and what they're buying is a road that is crowded and in terrible condition. And we can't make improvements based on the revenue stream that's coming in now."
Tolling popping up elsewhere
It's not a unique problem in the nation, although this study is among the first to look at it seriously in Southeast Pennsylvania.
The federal highway administration has "entered into more than 70 agreements to allow tolling for high-occupancy lanes and to convert an expressway into a toll road," said Leo Bagley, assistant director of the Montgomery County Planning Commission.
"On State Route 520, in Seattle, Wash., they are going through the same issue," said Bagley. "Two other groups in Pennsylvania are working on this also U.S. Route 15 in the central part of the state and U.S. Route 219 on the western side."
"Why do you think tolling I-80 was looked at or leasing the turnpike?" Frary asked.
"They're all geared toward adding revenue to repair and improve transportation infrastructure. Money from the gasoline tax generates less and less and we're certainly not going to get any money from Washington," Frary said. "We have to do this ourselves and this way, we control our own destiny."
"Over the last several years at the federal level, it's been very difficult to get funds to satisfy all the needs of our region," Shanis said. "And our projection is those funds will never be there. So it's incumbent upon people who want their transportation system to be better to start generating some funds to do that."
Where would the money go?
How those funds would be distributed is of course a key aspect to the discussion.
In as small and presumably unified a group as the Pottstown Metropolitan Area Regional Planning Committee, recent opinion divided evenly along the opinion that people would only support tolling if it fixed the road first or established extension of passenger rail from Norristown to Reading first or first fixed the local roads that would see an increase in traffic from drivers trying to escape the toll.
As for the toll itself, should it be established, it will not be collected via toll booths but via "overhead gantries" like those on the Atlantic City Expressway that use E-Z pass technology and do not require stopping, Bagley said.
"What we're looking at now is time-of-day tolling so that you may pay more in the peak hours than in the off-peak hours. You may pay less on a weekend or at nighttime. All these things are possible." said.
#3 Nov 4, 2011
They will waste the money as all toll roads and bridges do. Instead of using it on the roads they will go to projects like building stadiums like the Franklin Bridge did and now they need to raise the tolls again to fix the bridge. Or they will start the tolls and never end they even after the roads and bridges are paid for many times over. Look at the cases of NYC and DE. All of there bridges and roads are paid for and have been for years, but still the tolls are in place to supposetly maintain the roads and bridges. Its all a shame for government to get more money from us.
#4 Mar 5, 2012
So they take the money to pay for the road out of our taxes. Than the fed prints up money for the same roads which is essentially taxing us twice and finally they add a toll to the road. By my count we paid for that road twice already adding a toll would make it a third time. What possible justification could there be to charge us three times for a road. Beside, i thought that the corrupt politicians and their casino right along 422 in KOP was supposed to bring in revenue so the people wouldn't have too. Ill tell you what, I would be happy to pay a toll on that road, Id be happy to pay for a toll on all roads as long as the were privately owned and the inefficient bureaucrats weren't running the process. That way we would only have to pay for a road once and it would be repaired only when it was needed. By the way, just this past year we had to wait in traffic while the federal stimulus package rebuilt 422 even though it was not in need of repair. So what possible improvements could there be left to make? SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS AND MORE POLICE TO KEEP US SAFE AND STEAL MORE OF OUR MONEY?!! This is just another way for scumbag bureaucrats to siphon money from the already decimated middle class.
#5 Mar 12, 2012
...and let's not forget the scumbag private company that took $500,000 in federal tax dollars,$62,500 from 3 county's tax dollars and $62,500 from PennDOT a stae run program funded with MORE tax dollars.
"422plus" has already stolen $625,000 in tax dollars for their "study". What a joke! I'm sure there will never be a toll but these shaddow "grups" keep soaking the tax payers with endless study after study.
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