Request that Political Posturing by Candidates re Rt. 422 Wait Until the Facts are In!

The following letter to the editor appears in this week’s Main Line Suburban newspaper.  The letter is written by the Tom Caramanico, President and CEO of McCormick Taylor and Co-Chair, Infrastructure Working Group, CEO, Council for Growth.  Mr. Caramanico takes to task those political candidates that are jumping ahead and using Rt. 422 in their election strategy before knowing all the facts. 

Mr. Caramanico is in the trenches when it comes to the slow process of reconstructing Philadelphia area’s infrastructure.  Like many cities in America, Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs need to have serious attention paid to its roadways and bridges.  Unfortunately, infrastructure improvements (and paying for it) is something that few elected officials or political candidates wish to discuss.  Many candidates feel compelled to assure their constituents  of ‘no new taxes’ mantra at all costs

Is it possible that applying that type of attitude to Rt. 422 may be short-sighted; both for future economic development in the region, as well as safety concerns? Remember that 8-lane bridge collapse in Minnesota in 2007 which killed 13 people and injured 145.  Immediately following that incident there was nationwide discussion on our country’s  aging infrastructure and need for improvements, . . .  but what has actually happened?

Fast forward to 2010, we have the CEO Council for Growth and Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, among other organizations, trying to improve the safety and efficiency of the area’s transportation system.  Yet as Mr. Caramanico points out, politics and political posturing by candidates may be slowing the process of discovery. I agree with Mr. Caramanico, we should keep the options open and explore all alternatives . . .  not just take the knee-jerk approach and say ‘no’ before knowing the facts.

Although Mr. Caramanico’s letter was not written specifically for the political race between Paul Drucker and Warren Kampf, it should cause those campaigns a degree of pause . . . are these candidates keeping an open mind on the 422 corridor master plan?  As an aside, I would suggest that the website http://notolls422.com/  is not helpful for those working to improve 422. 

Review the letter to the editor – I’d be interested in your comments.

Calmly look at U.S. 422 issues

To the Editor:

More than two years ago, the effort to restore passenger rail service on the R6 line to Reading was on life support because of the lack of federal and state funding, and the most recent version of PennDOT’s 12-year plan does nothing to address the daily 15-mile backup on U.S. 422.

Yet congestion on the corridor is an enormous drag on the region’s economic prosperity. Whether it’s time spent in traffic commuting to work, lost time with family or trucks stalled from delivering their cargo, congestion is costing individuals time and businesses millions of dollars each year.

Although the needs along U.S. 422 are great and the benefits of rail service and highway-capacity improvements are very understandable, it is also apparent that government alone cannot accomplish these goals.

That’s why a group of businesspeople in our region got together to seek a solution now. The CEO Council for Growth along with Montgomery, Chester and Berks counties and other stakeholders along the U.S. 422 corridor commissioned a study to look at the feasibility of financing infrastructure improvements there. The study is in progress and preliminary results are expected this fall. The study will examine a variety of financing options, including an assessment of collecting a toll on U.S. 422 to pay for transportation improvements in the U.S. 422 corridor.

As businessmen and women, we are not committed to any financing option until we have all the necessary information available. Information such as: what improvements could be provided, how would rail service and highway improvements work together, how would we guarantee the money is spent on our improvements and not in other areas of the state, how much would a toll be, and where would it be collected? Only when these and many more questions are answered should anyone take a position for or against the idea.

Unfortunately some candidates running for office have taken a position before all the facts are known. This is a mistake. As statements containing half-truths, pseudo-facts and misinformation come from both political parties, the public is not well served. Sadly for purely political purposes, issues that require mature and reasonable discussion are reduced to a sound bite or simplistic headline.

Worst of all, this kind of political posturing will effectively chase away the private sector. Entrepreneurs and business leaders won’t want to invest in a public/private partnership if they believe the “public” piece of the partnership to be impetuous or, worse, misguided.

This is a call for restraint on the part of our candidates and elected officials. Let all concerns and issues be raised and considered, but please refrain from taking a position for or against any ideas until the facts are known. If the numbers don’t work or the impacts are too great we will all be opposed to it.

However, if there is a way to improve our transportation system in the corridor, we can work on the issues together. When the study is done, let the proposal be discussed and let it rise or fall on its own merits, based on the facts. Let the process work – the success of our region requires it, the public deserves it and these difficult times demand it.

Thomas A. Caramanico, P.E., President and CEO, McCormick Taylor Inc., Co-Chair, Infrastructure Working Group, CEO, Council for Growth

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20 Comments

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  1. “Unfortunately, infrastructure improvements (and paying for it) is something that few elected officials or political candidates wish to discuss.”

    This reminds me of the political axiom, “the costs of failing to solve a problem are invariably greater than the costs of leaving it unsolved”.

    So, rather than facing up to outdated infrastructure, it’s best to leave the problem unsolved, and work on the next “no new taxes” speech.

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  2. if I remember correctly, and despite the constant harping” where is warren on this” he was pretty circumspect in not commenting too much on this during the early stages.

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    ANON Reply:

    Just the contrary. Drucker supported the 422 master plan and Kampf’s reaction to the plan was to write ‘Why I Oppose Tolling 422’ on his website. Isn’t this the kind of political quick to judge analysis that Mr. Caramanico spoke of in his letter to the editor?

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    flyersfan Reply:

    yes ANON

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  3. From Mr. Kampf’s website statement:

    “Only after we have exhausted all efforts at controlling and focusing spending wisely — and only after a thorough and careful analysis of all options is completed — should we ever look toward an increased burden on our citizens. That is what I will work to do in Harrisburg.”

    —–

    That seems to me to say, slow down and look at everything first before we spend/borrow more. Perhaps some call that “anti-business” but I call it at least fiscal prudence, something that every economist says the business community is looking for in government before they start re-investing in the economy.

    Also, doesn’t saying look at all other options first also mean that the final option isn’t closed?

    Finally, Mr. Petersen, please offer some proof for your attacks:

    1. How can you say so conclusively that Kampf “hasn’t studied the issue” other than it feeds how you want to present something or because you don’t like his conclusion?

    2. Prove Mr. Kampf is behind this website you cite.

    Finally, if you want to do $$ comparisons, shouldn’t you mention that Kampf spent the early dollars he raised on a Primary — something Ciarrochi didn’t have to spend money on? With this in mind, it would make sense that Ciarrochi had more money on hand now, wouldn’t it?

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    ANON Reply:

    From the West –

    If you are going to quote from Kampf’s website, you might want to also include this:

    “1. I do not believe that burdening our working families and seniors with added costs in these troubled economic times is a good idea, but that is exactly what a toll on Route 422 would do.
    2. The revenue from this action comes nowhere near what is needed to fund the $2.2 billion (or more) cost of the proposed Schuylkill Valley Metro.
    3. Tolling Route 422 and only Route 422 equates to unfair taxation.
    4. There are no guarantees that tolling revenue will be used as Mr. Drucker and his Harrisburg politician allies claim. ”

    This doesn’t sound like someone who is open-minded – but rather Kampf’s rhetoric sounds like an individual with his mind made up.

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  4. In the West,

    Good work defending Warren. I would expect nothing less of a loyal committeeperson assigned to the job.

    Even if Warren didn’t set up the website, I’ll bet anything he was well aware of it and was consulted before it went public.

    But it doesn’t really matter now. It’s up and collecting signatures from people who may not have considered anything more than the fact that they don’t want to pay a toll to drive on Rte 422..

    Warren’s July 12 letter to the editor of the Suburban offers wildly inaccurate information on the cost of the proposed Schuylkill Valley Metro, stirs up doubts by suggesting that only Rte 422 is being considered for tolling (not true) and that toll revenue could be used elsewhere in the state (at odds with the very purpose of a toll on 422).

    As Mr. Caramanico has so effectively written, there is a whole lot more to this issue. Our regional vitality depends on the right, foreward-thinking decisions. So(politically motivated) knee-jerk opposition to one option – tolling – to fund transportation improvements is both short-sighted and discouraging to potential investors, land developers and businesses that are considering relocating to this region.

    This region needs representatives in Harrisburg and Washington who understand the stakes and will work with the private sector to bring economic prosperity to our area.

    We are already moving forward with turnpike- funded projects that will bring more business and jobs here. These road improvements will trigger the development of the long-delayed Atwater and Worthington devlopments. And it opens up possibilities for more regional development as well.

    Also, the welcome movement on the Paoli Transportation Center will bring more jobs and revenue to Tredyffrin and surrounding communities.- and it will be paid for by a combination of public and private investment.

    This is reality. Government funding is limited and will remain so.. All prospects for well- planned progress should be welcome in these discouraging times.

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    From The West Reply:

    I have told Mr. Petersen before and i will now tell you: i am not a Republican committee person. In fact, i am not even a Republican. I am an independent tired of this entire blog always being hi-jacked by political attacks. If this were happening to Mr. Drucker, i would do the same type of posting for him.

    Kate, i know you and Mr. Petersen seem to agree on a lot, but he is wrong and so are you. Sorry!

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    EZPass Reply:

    Kate – The turnpike widening and slipramps will do little or nothing to increase demand for retail/commercial at Atwater, Worthington, General Warren Blvd, or anywhere else in GVCC. These areas as they exist now are easily accessed from a multitude of roadways and limited access highways.

    While the proposed improvements to the turnpike will certainly do a lot to improve traffic flow on many roadways around this area, and reduce some commutes by 15 minutes or so, to suggest that these improvements will be enough to magically spur demand for an office development that has been stagnant for over a decade is ridiculous.

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    Kate Reply:

    You’re entitled to your opinion, but it is a fact that the development of Atwater was predicated on the opening of the Rte 29 slip ramp. And the extended delay has contributed in a major way to the lack of success in developing that property.. Trammell Crow simply could not attract businesses to that location without easy access to the TP. The company even contributed 7 acres of their own property to be used for an expanded slip ramp design as an investment in moving the process forward.

    Also, the Worthington project always counted on the slip ramp to bring business to their project. As a planned residential community, access to the TP would spur sales. If and when the full-scale commercial plans are built, the slip ramp will widen the radius of potential customers/visitors to Worthington businesses.

    Clear evidence of the importance of the slip ramp to area businesses has been the ongoing and active involvement of Liberty Property Trust, ONeill Properties, Trammell Crow and Vanguard in pressing for a green light from the PTC on the slip ramp construction.

    And it goes without saying that a wider turnpike from Downingtown to King of Prussia will improve the flow of traffic into and out of the Great Valley area. I see nothing ridiculous about that.

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    EZPass Reply:

    “And it goes without saying that a wider turnpike from Downingtown to King of Prussia will improve the flow of traffic into and out of the Great Valley area. I see nothing ridiculous about that.”

    What I said was ridiculous is the assertion that Atwater and the rest of the GVCC will become materially more attractive to tenants as result of a travel time improvement of 15 minutes and that they will experience some measurable improvement in occupancy rates purely as result of the highway improvements.

    Agreed that the ramp would improve traffic flow in GV, it will also improve traffic flow into and out of KOP as traffic is diverted from there to GV – using your logic can we also expect commercial and retail vacancies to drop in KOP as well, as result of better flow? Where are all of the businesses that will be moving into GV and KOP be coming from???

    The issue of vacancies has nothing to do with the +/- 15 minutes travel, and even if it did, there are a finite number of potential tenants, moving them from one development to another doesn’t result in a net improvement to the local economies, nor does it typically make much sense for the tenant. Same issue here as Paoli transit center – these are NOT new jobs, tenants, or dollars – IF someone does move in.

    Mike in Berwyn Reply:

    I agree that the Route 29 slip ramp should improve the commercial prospects of that area. Additionally, as I understand it, the $60mm project will be paid for by the Turnpike Commission, i.e. by user tolls – fair enough. And, as the Turnpike runs roughly parallel to 422, it may modestly ease 422 congestion.

    Kate, you suggest that Mr. Kampf’s Schuylkill Valley Metro cost is wildly inaccurate – in fact, the number is $2.2 billion, as he said. From Montco’s website; “Over the past 15 years, feasibility studies, a major investment study, and a draft environmental impact statement (MIS/DEIS) of the Schuylkill Valley Metro (SVM) concept linking Reading to Philadelphia via King of Prussia were prepared for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) with the hope that SVM would be eligible for federal dollars to help pay for the $2.2 billion project. ” (As I pointed out earlier, millions spent on design and study with engineering firms, planning commissions, etc.)

    Since the original proposal was summarily dismissed for Federal or PA funding, the rail supporters have a new, stripped down proposal which would use the Norfolk Southern freight lines and is called the R6 Extension – they apparently considered 6 or 7 alternatives (more dollars on design/planning). There are major hurdles throughout the report – for example, this is a fairly heavily used freight corridor and Norfolk Southern officials have stated they will only consider the project if its operation does not impact their core freight business – that’s virtually impossible. As for the potential funding and in the apparent absence of federal or state funding , tolling is problematic in at least two ways – if you allow broad exceptions, it’s hard to pay for the project AND it is very questionable that we can assure the tolls will be solely dedicated to 422 and the R6 – that is also a fact. My point is, if the economics don’t or can’t work, why continue to pour millions down this rathole with more engineering, planning, design work? The financial/funding question should drive the process.

  5. A point to remember about many of those that support this project, possibly including Mr. Caramanico, who is the President and CEO of McCormick and Taylor, a design and planning firm for infrastructure. These firms’ and the various quasi-governmental agencies support of this project, or even being “open minded” about it, is self serving. The planning, feasibility studies, design work, financing evaluations, etc. are big business for these firms – while building the project is a “home run” for them, the revenue from the preliminary work is a “solid single”. On a project of this size, such work would cost taxpayers millions of dollars (and provide lucrative work for years for these firms), whether the project ever gets built or not – in fact, millions have already been spent on the original Schuylkill Valley Metro studies which began in 1997! and that project could not get funded in Washington or Harrisburg and is dead.

    Despite some protestations here, a couple of points Mr. Kampf raises are very valid and focus on the funding. The first step in this process should be to determine if a tolling scheme that people can live with, in combination with other possible revenue sources, can fund the project – that includes consideration of whether those toll revenues can be legally dedicated to this project, which is very much in question. Frankly, if we can’t afford to pay to build it, why continue to spend big tax dollars on design and engineering?

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Mike —
    In May of this year, the American Society of Civil Engineers issued its report card on Pennsylvania’s infrastructure — including roads, bridges, dams and sewers. Roads in Pennsylvania were downgraded to a D- (previous 2006 report card listed roads at D) — the bridges in PA held firm at C. In the report, it was stated that Pennsylvania is doing a better job than most states but with the near failing roads that’s not saying much. However, like the rest of the country the state’s infrastructure is getting older, faster. The report also noted that most of Pennsylvania’s local roads and bridges are in far worse shape than the state roads.

    If something isn’t done about the aging infrastructure across this country, we are going to witness future road/bridge failures as we saw in in Minneapolis in 2007 on a regular basis. Simply not wanting to increase our taxes is not a solution. . . I don’t want to see another bridge collapse, in Pennsylvania or anywhere.

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    From The West Reply:

    Mike —

    Didn’t know that about Mr. Caramanico. Perhaps he should have mentioned that his company stands to profit from his stance on the issue in his letter.

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    Mike in Berwyn Reply:

    Actually, I am fine with Mr Caramanico’s disclosure. He identifies his professional affiliation with the McCormick Dailey fiirm, is a P.E, and has a role in local planning groups – a simple search confirmed that his firm is involved in infrastructure planning and engineering, which while it speaks to his expertise, also might make his stated position self-serving.

    On the other hand, I would like to see disclosure in letters to the editor from those that are, for example, in political leadership positions, including some that are active on this board.

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    flyersfan Reply:

    “profit” There’s that dirty word again. In a new age where GM bondholders and other creditors are swept aside for political patronage, how dare anyone use the word profit, much less contemplate making a profit.

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  6. In terms of a scientific analysis, ONE bridge collapse while tragic is not sufffiient data to conclude a widepread pandemic of bridge collapses is under way.

    I thought one of the goals of our trillion dollar debt was to get shovel ready projects underway, and maybe not so shovel ready projects on the drawing board. It is nice to have handicapped cutouts up and down Lancaster Ave, but isn’t there more to repairing infrastructure than that?

    In as much as as Kate has cynical expectations of others, she should know that others have the same of her.

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  7. Pattye:

    Actually, your thoughts support my point of view. Let’s face it, we don’t have unlimited funds, modest tax increases or not. When it comes to infrastructure, or any other spending, our government should concentrate on the “need to haves”, not the “nice to haves”. The needed infrastructure investment that you describe IS a matter of public safety – bridges, repaving, water and sewer conveyance. I suggest that we use the available funds for this investment.

    On the other hand, should we invest $1,000,000,000+ to relieve traffic on 422 and improve a rail system? The benefits excite some, though nobody appears very interested in the hard reality of paying for it. Any mention of tolling is accompanied by exceptions. Remember, there appears to be no Federal or PA funding source. Should we borrow the billion+ dollars and figure out how pay for it later?

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  8. Does anyone find it disturbing that even a request to slow down reaching conclusions is subsequently politicized? (In this case, it may be true that the request is due to politicization.)

    The United States is in a dangerous place right now — we are printing money to shore up our financial sector to avoid inflation….but deflation and all those other economic terms are lurking….Pennsylvania is a lot like the Federal government but we cannot print money. We’re old — we have old citizens – we have citizens who in many cases have never lived anywhere but here…and we are seeing a clash of generations where the retirees celebrated mortgage burning parties and their children get a HELOC as soon as they have enough equity to “remodel.” We all want the lifestyle we are used to, but we can no longer afford…and use credit to get. We want to live in nice communities with lots of amenities, but most of the long term residents were fine with it when they moved here and see no need to change what has worked for a generation or two.

    Pattye and Mike have both made a cogent point — our infrastructure is decaying. We want what we want — NOW — but we are indignant that any cost should be borne by us.

    There are no new jobs coming in any large number — so you can do your new developments and forecast occupancy rates for new construction — but you aren’t creating new business — you are going to relocate. For every new Wegmans (yea!), there is an empty Genuardis or two. Who wouldn’t love to have the Valley Forge Music Fair in our community — instead of an empty Linens and Things and a Pet Smart, and a Barnes and Noble that wanted to go elsewhere but couldn’t get development approval for retail adjacent to Daylesford Lakes….new offices went there instead.

    Babbling on. Sorry. Since this board started, I have known at least a dozen middle-class (upper middle class) families that have lost their jobs and have raided college and retirement funds to avoid foreclosures on their homes. I think Washington is so hopelessly political that it will be luck if anything gets solved, and the more we drag politics into every issue, the less likely we are to reach a consensus solution to local issues.
    Sorry if I sound opinionated Kate == I am. I’m just of the opinion that it’s easy to have vision — hard to drive the bus — and if we debate the vision forever, and refuse to step up and pay for something, we have to stop wishing for more. It’s frustration you hear == not arrogance. I am a decision maker — and the debate often obfuscates the bottom line — what will we do (as opposed to what can we do, what would we like to do, what should we do?)
    Sigh.

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