422

422 Master Plan & Tolling . . . Talking Point of Drucker & Kampf

It’s fascinating how political campaigns evolve . . . the tolling of Rt. 422 has become an interesting talking point between the Drucker and Kampf campaigns.  Back in April, Drucker spoke on a news video for Times Herald; the video was accompanied by an article where the 422 master plan and tolling was discussed.  I heard the words ‘tolling on 422’ and immediately assumed that my trips to the outlet malls just became more expensive!  However, I discovered that occasional or short on-off users of Rt. 422 would not be charged a toll in the proposed 422 expansion plan.  Likewise, my trips to the 422 movie theater would remain ‘untolled’ under this plan.  

In fact, I was able to go back a few months and find the Times Herald article, where Drucker explains  — “The plan, as it was explained to me, is that short-term users – on- and off-type users of 422, will not be tolled, because of some of the technology that is in place,” said Drucker. “Tolling will be for the people who use it during more of a steady period.” 

Drucker provided follow-up information in last week’s Main Line Suburban newspaper — should there be any misunderstanding among residents. Drucker wrote the following op-ed article on the master plan for Rt. 422:

Looking Carefully at the Route 422 Corridor Master Plan
By PA State Rep Paul Drucker (D-157)
 
Recently the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and the Chester County Planning Commission have presented to several municipal boards in our area the Route 422 Corridor Master Plan. This is a proposal that could significantly alter the transportation infrastructure of the Route 422 corridor.

The Route 422 Corridor Master Plan, among other things, provides for light rail service through the corridor and could be economically advantageous to our region. Pennsylvania needs a strong infrastructure to keep us competitive to attract and retain businesses to our state, and along with them, much-needed jobs.

With over a half a million jobs in Montgomery County and more than 250,000 jobs in Chester County, 28 percent of the Gross Southeast Regional Product is generated in these two counties alone. By 2030, the Route 422 Corridor is expected to add another 30,000 jobs.

Congestion on Route 422 is strangling the area with 15-mile backups daily on the highway and overflow onto parallel local roads. All of us who have spent time on Route 422 knows that it is a frustrating driving experience, to the point that we have recently witnessed a dangerous episode of road rage. In addition, there is no room for businesses to expand or new companies to locate in the corridor.

Currently there is no federal or state money forthcoming to the area to help with infrastructure improvements. Today, over half of the region’s long-range major capital-investment plan for the southeastern counties is consumed by existing assets that need to be rebuilt or replaced, such as crumbling bridges, and the number of major new investments that expand capacity is extremely limited.

One of the more controversial aspects of the plan is the possibility of tolling a portion of Route 422. Modern tolling technology allows for an express lane accessible only to long-distance travelers of the road. It would not be accessible to those drivers who travel Route 422 for short distances. I think such an option could work. However, I would not support a tolling structure that forces daily, on/off drivers to pay tolls.

I know many of my constituents use Route 422 every day, some several times a day. I do not support placing the burden of multiple tolls daily onto my constituents, especially in these difficult economic times.

As a policymaker I have an obligation to give serious consideration to plans that can improve the lives of people in our region and address our serious budget and transportation challenges. This proposal deserves the consideration of all of us who live here.

I will continue to monitor this plan as it moves forward, and I will remain focused on my priorities of delivering a fair, balanced budget in a timely manner, creating jobs in our district and helping Pennsylvania to recover from this difficult recession. I have always, and I will continue to, keep your wallets in mind as I represent you.

 Drucker’s op-ed article does well to clarify his position and to once again state that the master plan would not include tolling of occasional users of Rt. 422, or those that are on-off and not traveling the entire stretch of the highway on a regular basis.  I think we could all agree that something needs to change on 422 – if you are ever up watching the early news on TV (as I am) you know that the discussion of 422 back-ups and traffic slow-down is part of the daily news updates.  It is understood that discussion of 422’s master plan is in the very early stages but it is refreshing to know that there are people with vision and long-range future planning skills.  Like it or not, something has to significantly change on 422; the problem isn’t going to solve itself without help!

In response to Drucker’s op-ed article, Warren Kampf wrote the following for his website.  Kampf is taking the stance of no tolling, apparently under no conditions.  From a long-range planning standpoint, how does Kampf propose to help relieve the traffic nightmare of Rt. 422?  What is his solution to the problem?  I support debate on the 422 master plan and tolling issue but Kampf’s criticism of the plan without offering a viable alternative is not a solution.   Kampf’s is clear that he does not support tolling . . . again, I would ask that rather than poking holes in his opponent’s plan, a better approach might be to present his own options to fix the traffic problems of 422. How would he design the Rt.  422 master plan . . .?

Why I oppose tolling Route 422
By Warren Kampf, July 12th, 2010

I read with incredulity a recent letter to editor by Paul Drucker attempting to change his position on the tolling of Route 422. 

As reported by The Times Herald on April 9, 2010, Mr. Drucker told their editor that he supported tolling specifically for the proposed Schuylkill Valley Metro.  Now, however, Mr. Drucker is trying to change his position to make it less politically damaging.

My position on tolling Route 422 is clear: I oppose it.  I do so for the following reasons:

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.  There is no reason to investigate or begin tolling 422 for the purpose of building a light-rail line unless and until other construction funding is secured.  [In 2004, estimated cost for the Schuylkill Valley Metro was $2.2 billion (Pottstown Mercury); taking inflation into account, current costs would probably be higher today.]

3.  Tolling Route 422 and only Route 422 equates to unfair taxation.  Unlike Mr. Drucker, I do not believe those who utilize Route 422 deserve to bear a greater burden than those who utilize Route 202, the Blue Route, the Schuylkill Expressway, and other highways that are just as important to the economic well-being of our region as Route 422 is.

4.  There are no guarantees that tolling revenue will be used as Mr. Drucker and his Harrisburg politician allies claim. 

Unlike the Turnpike, which is a separate authority run by the revenue it raises from tolling, tolls on Route 422 would go into the state’s general fund and could be used for any purpose (unless the Legislature passes special legislation approving a local authority.) Remember, these are the same people who passed gaming in our state by promising to use the money for property tax relief and instead spent it to help build a sports arena in Pittsburgh. 

There is simply too great a risk that Mr. Drucker’s toll money will be used to fund items other than the construction of the proposed Schuylkill Valley Metro.

Since Mr. Drucker made his tolling proposal, I have consistently stated that I do not support it for the reasons above.  Unfortunately, once Mr. Drucker was hit with the reality that the people he represents do not want his tolls, he has tried political back-pedaling to re-write history.  Today, he is attempting to say that this tolling money would be used to maintain and improve Route 422.  As stated above in number 4, we can’t trust that tolling revenue will be used for this purpose. 

Rather than always look to new revenue sources (taxes, fees, tolls) first, Mr. Drucker and those like him in Harrisburg should first look to prioritize spending on core services by cutting spending on non-core function programs. Instead, they continue to over-spend and over-borrow (including more than a half-billion dollars this year to “balance” their budget) and then support other fees – like 422 tolls – for projects they claim are vital but don’t have the wherewithal to fight for in the regular budget process.

Yes, we must address congestion on Route 422 and the need to continue building upon the positive economic impact this corridor has on our region.  To do so, I believe we must first work to cut wasteful state spending and focus the state budget on priorities like education, job creation, property tax relief and infrastructure improvements. 

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.

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