Route 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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Route 422 as a campaign issue for the State House 157 Drucker – Kampf race . . . a curious website notolls422.com surfaces . . . and thoughts from John Petersen

I received the following op-ed, ‘Support of tolling of Route 422 – and political courage’ from John Petersen.  The opinion article will appear as a ‘As I see It’ in this week’s edition of Main Line Suburban newspaper.  I recently discovered the website, notolls422.com and was confused.  It is my understanding that the plans that are being discussed for Rt. 422 include 22 municipalities but in review of the website, it would appear that the proposed land development project only involved areas of the Pennsylvania State House 157 jurisdiction.  There are many communities involved in the discussion of the 422 project, the majority of which are north of our community.  Exploring the notolls422 website, I could not determine who was responsible for the website or specific contact information.  In reading Mr. Petersen’s article, it would suggest that he similarly has questions and offers his own thoughts on the subject.  Very interesting.

Support of tolling of Route 422 – and political courage
By John Petersen

To follow this argument will require some insight into logic. To begin this argument, I’ll start with a premise that I believe we can accept as fact – Route 422 has been and is a mess when it comes to traffic and gridlock. The 422 corridor that runs from Valley Forge (where 422, 202 and 76 intersect) all the way to Reading has seen massive commercial and residential growth over the past 30 years. And in that time, the road has remained unchanged with respect to the capacity it can handle. If you are not sure as to the veracity of this fact, travel westbound in the morning and look at the line of traffic. If you happen to be near the King of Prussia Mall around 4:30-5 on any weekday, you will see the gridlock spilling over to 76. Unfortunately 422 has become a bit of a political football. Here are two examples: notolls422.com and twitter.com/WarrenKampf/status/11965252784.

If you accept the premise that everything is a-OK with 422 and that we should remain with the status quo, then I dare say you are living in bizarro-world. Moving forward with the notion that something has to be done with 422, we then need to move on to the discussion of funding. There are basically three approaches, none of which are mutually exclusive: taxes, tolls and/or some type of public/private partnership (which is really just a euphemistic way of saying new taxes). The problem with taxes is that they are levied on everyone. Taxes go into a central bureaucratic pit. From there we have no clue as to where the funds go. Taxes are the mother’s milk of big government. That said, some level of taxation is required and ideally a government levies not one penny more in taxes than it needs. Another thing I think we can all agree on is that we are far from ideal taxation – whether it be local, state or federal taxes. Relative to what is levied, there is an impedance mismatch between what we pay and the services that are rendered. Taxing as the funding source for dealing with the 422 problem aggravates a problem that is getting worse.

On the other hand there is tolling. Tolling actually represents a very conservative idea. If you use a service, you then have to pay for that service. In the 157th race, we are confronted with a situation wherein Rep. Paul Drucker, the Democratic candidate, is advancing tolling, among many other ideas, for dealing with the 422 problem. Warren Kampf, the Republican candidate, has not advanced a position other than numerous tweets about door-knocking and simply being against what Rep. Drucker and the Chester County Planning Commission have suggested. It should be noted that tolling is one of many suggestions that are on the table. You can read the details of the 422 Corridor Master Plan yourself by following the following link: www.422corridor.com/page/us-422-master-plan.

What we need from our elected officials are alternatives – not feel-good statements that are motivated by election politics. We need officials who exercise political courage such that ideas that may not seem popular are not summarily taken off the table. Elected officials are duty-bound to consider all ideas. They are also duty-bound to consider the opinions of their constituency. What we don’t need are politicians who take the position of not having a position that leads to doing nothing. If that is all we needed from elected officials, then I dare say that a rock would suffice for our duly elected officials. A rock is equally capable of doing nothing.

The last several years in Tredyffrin Township have been dominated by election politics and questionable decision-making by some of our locally elected officials. One of those officials, Warren Kampf, is seeking to unseat our current state representative, Paul Drucker. It just so happens that 422 cuts through a portion of the 157th Legislative District. If there was an issue where we needed definite guidance on where candidates and elected officials stand, 422 is it. What we cannot have is election politics hijacking the conversation. Any candidate who does not have a definitive stance on how to deal with the 422 problem is, in my opinion, not qualified to hold an elected office that would be concerned with 422. With that, I encourage Mr. Kampf to get off the sidelines and join the conversation.

I have one last point that deals with the notolls422.com site. This site is precisely the problem with election politics I have cited. When I first saw the site, I was somewhat amused by the fact that the author cites the horrors that toll booths would inflict on 422. Here’s a news flash – it’s not 1955 anymore. We have something called EZ-Pass. If you go to the Washington, D.C. area or central Texas, you find modern roadways that can automatically levy the tolls and in some cases can adjust the tolls based on the time of day – peak vs. non-peak. While there may be some good guess, unfortunately, we don’t know the precise identity of the notolls422.com owner. Sadder still, sites like notolls422.com degrade the signal-to-noise ratio in these conversations. Sites like this do not advance the discussion one iota. My hope is the Kampf campaign has nothing to do with the site. It may be that the true owner will have to surface to clear things up. To the GOP that may find that such a site is OK, I have two words for you – Mr. Tredyffrin!

Tolls can be very effective. They have worked well for the PA Turnpike. The nice thing is that tolls are levied against those who use the road. What could be more elegant? And further, what could be more conservative? Let’s have an open and honest discussion about all of the alternatives. Yes, that includes taxes and the public/private partnership. My guess is that the latter will not pass muster. Regardless, let’s have the conversation. And finally, let’s encourage the candidates that it is OK to suggest alternatives. In any scenario, 100 percent of the people are not going to agree on 100 percent of the issues.

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