The ‘To Toll or Not to Toll’ Discussion Continues . . . A Personal Response from State Rep Warren Kampf

The ‘To Toll or Not to Toll’ discussion continues . . . the tolling of 422 continues to make headlines and yesterday was a busy day for legislators on either side of the issue.

In an op-ed article (6/9/11) in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Joe Hoeffel (D), vice chair of the Montgomery County Commission and chair of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, wrote, “there isn’t enough state or federal money for the job. The state has budgeted $250 million for the Route 422 corridor over the next decade, but transportation experts agree that $750 million is needed. And nobody believes the legislature or Congress will provide that kind of funding anytime soon. Without a new funding source, 422 will not be fixed for at least 30 years, according to projections by the state Department of Transportation. By that time, the highway will be gridlocked for much of the day.”  Hoeffel supports tolling of 422 and believes that a modest toll could generate $800 million in a few years.

Opposing the tolling of 422, state representatives David Maloney, (R) Berks, Marcy Toepel, (R) Montgomery, Tom Quigley, (R) Montgomery and Warren Kampf (R), our 157th district representative, held a news conference in Phoenixville yesterday.  Calling the 422 project, the Hoeffel Tolling Plan, these local legislators do not believe that tolling is a viable option to pay for infrastructure improvements.  Click here for a short video clip of the press conference.

There continues to be much written and discussed about the tolling of 422.  Depending on how you feel about the topic, you can find supporters on either side of the issue; those for tolling and those against tolling. However, regardless of your personal views on  tolling, I think we can all agree that the traffic congestion on 422 is a commuter’s nightmare and that something needs to change, and. . . we need people with a vision to encourage that change.

We aware that our own state representative continues to stand behind his ‘no tolling of 422′ campaign message — but it was unclear to me whether Kampf considered that Route 422 was actually a traffic problem.  Seeking clarification on his ‘422 traffic’ position, I sent him this simple email a couple of days ago:

Dear Rep. Kampf,

As my elected State Representative, do you believe that there is a traffic problem on Route 422?

Thank you and I look forward to your response.

Pattye Benson

As some of you are aware, my previous communication with Kampf has not always been the most successful. Now that he is our elected state representative, I was curious to see if anything had changed and admit I was pleasantly surprised that he took the time to send a personal and lengthy response. I believe that there is value in my sharing his response and have notified him that I would be adding it to today’s post on Community Matters.  His reply to my email:

Pattye:

Thank you for your email. I welcome the opportunity to respond.

As you may have heard, I am on record as being against tolling 422. I believe that this “toll” is just another name for a tax on the already overburdened commuters of that roadway. But I recognize that 422 is a transportation problem for commuters.

The idea to address 422’s needs without tolling is not solely mine; Governor Corbett has convened a Transportation Funding Advisory Committee that is looking at over 50 prospective ways to address the funding gap for our road/bridge infrastructure (tolling is one of the options but in no way is it the only option being discussed). I believe that prioritizing, finding cost savings and advocacy for our regional roadways must be tools considered as part of the discussion too.

I have empathy for the people who drive that roadway, and I have my own personal experience on 422 to draw from. We all pay the same gas taxes and vehicle fees that others in Pennsylvania pay, but the response to fix our road has been to ask my constituents to pay up to $5 a day more for the privilege of driving that road! That just seems unfair.

Other areas have had road and bridge needs addressed. PennDOT does have a larger plan for the area’s roads. As you know, 202 is getting significant improvement. Route 309 was also rebuilt. These projects came to fruition not with tolling revenue but with the already existing sources within the Commonwealth that I mentioned above. Why is 422 unique?

There is over $240 Million currently programmed for improvement of 422 during the next eight (8) years within the PennDOT plans. This is in the plan without tolling. While it is not enough, and does not come fast enough, it will be a good start. Tolling does not appear likely to make this set of improvements happen any faster that I can tell. Further, this proposal is being billed as a public private partnership, but fundamentally it is almost entirely public money—both tolls and other transportation funding—that will pay for these improvements. Finally, there is a rail line proposal in the mix here, paid for with toll money. While I certainly recognize the attractiveness of restored rail to towns like Phoenixville, this will in all likelihood require management by SEPTA, or some such entity, and we know such rail lines usually run at a significant deficit year in and year out. That cost will ultimately pass on to the taxpayers, and I campaigned on a platform that promised the taxpayer, in tough times such as these and in good times, a seat at the table when these decisions are made. I feel I am making good on that commitment but seeking alternatives.

As a final thought, we built 422 with public money. We have maintained it with public money. We have continued to collect those monies and have an obligation to serve the people who drive that road. One could argue it would be a violation of the public trust to change the game now and introduce tolls. The 422 corridor continues to grow in large part because of the access that road provides. Indeed, it is a road regularly used for shopping and other trips not related to “commuting.” I believe my constituents feel as I do, and I welcome your input.

Thank you for your question.

Warren

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16 Comments

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  1. A measured, well-reasoned response. Perhaps jumping to embrace a new tax is not the best solution when there may be already existing alternatives.

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  2. Pattye —

    Thanks! I enjoyed the video and was particularly interested in Rep. Toepel’s comments re: the rail line portion of the plan.

    I had commented earlier that I believed the rail line option that tolling plan proponents are pushing would result in shortfalls to be made up for by the taxpayers. What I didn’t expect were the numbers to be so high — as much as $12M annual shortfall.

    Apparently Rep. Kampf made a similar point to you in his response as well. He didn’t put #’s to his response, but I don’t know whether he replied to you before or after the DVRPC presentation (?), so he may not have been able to do so.

    Perhaps now is not the time to go “all in” on a full blown plan that includes the rail line and, instead, to look at different alternatives/ideas/etc.

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  3. appreciated Mr Kampf’s response. He makes some good points and was impressed that he even responded given the fact this hasn’t been a friendly place for him. It speaks to the outlet that Community Matters has become that he would respond.

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  4. PS I didn’t think Kampf dismissed Phoenixville. Guess is all depends on interpretation. ANd 240 milion is a start. But how much more? Maybe Kampf was defending our pocket books by saying we pay taxes that go to highways in general and maybe, just maybe, he is saying we can get some funding that way. Maybe as our rep he will speak up and try to bring some funds home.

    anyone else besides John Petersen have any comments or read this the same way?

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    Mr. Roboto Reply:

    You are 100% on the mark Flyers Fan. Of course Warren Kampf didn’t dismiss Phoenixville. He is always up in that portion of his District, speaking with constituents, service organizations, small business leaders and local politicians.

    Meanwhile, John Petersen is forever trying to stir up different segments of the population against Warren. He has never been able to get any followers to join him in forming an angry mob, so in the end John Petersen is just a second rate Claudius Pulcher wannabe.

    As for Warren’s comments, I am glad he took the time to reply to Pattye Benson. Community Matters has grown into the finest and most informative Blog about local events in the Philadelphia Metro Area, and it serves as a model for aspiring bloggers from around the country who wish to develop similar Websites for their communities. I am certain that Warren recognizes this fact and respects what Pattye has accomplished.

    Hopefully, other elected officials and public servants will follow suit and also respond to Pattye’s queries concerning issues of local concern. Such open discourse will allow this Blog’s audience to be better informed, and will no doubt help to shape the direction of public policy in our community.

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    MR — Thank you for your kind words re Community Matters – they’re much appreciated!!

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    Moderate Girl Reply:

    Have to say I was not impressed with Warren’s response; he didn’t tell me anything new. It was just his usual doublespeak. At least he gave Pattye an answer.

    Then again, the 422 nightmare doesn’t truly affect his Tredyffrin constituents (at least not until more companies build along the 422 corridor & our residents have to travel up 422 & back as commuters because their jobs have moved there). It does affect his P’ville & Montco constituents. But then they may be districted out of the 157th.

    I doubt the current funds allocated to improve 422 will do much to improve the situation & 8 years is a long time in a highway repair program

    Then again, I’ve never been a supporter of PennDot. They never plan for the future (ie Blue route, 202, etc) Those roads were outdated before the first blueprint was prepared. A friend used to work for PD & quit because it was so frustrating & they were so far behind the 8ball.

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  5. Arguing someone’s point based on substance is important — public debate is important and is what I want from this community forum. I appreciate each person who takes the time to comment on Community Matters — all your opinions are important.

    However, can I ask that those that comment to please refrain from personally attacking others that comment. I don’t expect people that read Community Matters to always agree with me anymore than I expect those that comment to agree with each other. But personal attacks don’t add to the discussion.

    Thank you all for your cooperation —

    Pattye

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  6. I am happy to see Warren Kampf’s response – I hope this is the beginning of an on-going dialogue with him and his constituents, via Community Matters.

    That said, although I understand why he opposes the tolls, I did not see any other viable solutions proposed to solve the horrendous traffic situation.

    Pattye, how many times are you going to plead for civil and impersonal posts on this blog? I think it is time to take action with those few who ignore your requests – ban them, redact portions of their submissions, ??? – what is the solution? You are providing a wonderful community service and a platform to disseminate useful information – you and your hard work need to be respected by all contributors.

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  7. As a former Drucker supporter, I applaud Rep Kampf’s response on this issue. There are many roads in PA that have traffic. What is unique about 422 is that it only happens two times a day – on one side in the morning, on another side in the evening. On the weekend, the road is fine. People battle traffic every rush hour every work day of their lives and I see no “emergency” to the 422 situation that would require such drastic action as adding a toll to the road.

    Pattye, thank you for posting his response. It was very impressive and I appreciate Rep Kampf’s thoughtful response to this issue. After all, it did win him his election!

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  8. I am fully in favor of doing nothing. It provides adequate political cover for the politicians, it costs the state nothing, and best of all, it requires not dealing with the problem. Not dealing with the problem is the preferred method in Pennsylvania and the United States, so let’s stick with that works.

    If we toll the road, sure it may be fixed, but I am completely unwilling to pay so much as penny for anything that someone else should pay for.

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    Toshiro Takashi Reply:

    “Not dealing with the problem is the preferred method in Pennsylvania and the United States, so let’s stick with that works.”

    Actually, the preferred method is to attempt to solve one problem by creating multiple other problems, and then blaming those new problems that are created on the people who questioned the original problem’s solution.

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  9. so I am driving on the Blue Route this morning, as I do every morning and evening and I am wondering when the powers that be will consider a toll to widen the highway so I and others don’t have to sit in traffic every day. I say this with part tongue in cheek. Where does the gas tax money go? there are alot of road construction projects going on around the area. Maybe that’s part of where its going. Maybe some of that can be used to fix 422, or other projects that have interest for those intimately associated with those roads. OR,
    maybe do nothing. ?

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    give it a rest Reply:

    And as I drove on the Blue Route last night after the Phillies game, I pondered how much revenue is lost in speeding ticket generation? The limit is 55 — I was doing 60 and felt in peril, with cars passing each other on both sides of the road in excess of 80 (okay — 70)….I remind you that it took about 30 years to BUILD the blue route…that’s why it was short of what it needed to be by the time it opened. Some of the road was so old when it finally opened that it had to be repaved.

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