Tolling a 25-mile stretch of Route 422 “may not be the best option for funding 422 at this time,” according to the head of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC).
The 422plus Project examined if tolling the road could help with improvements to 422, improving the local roads that are affected by the expressway and possibly putting a commuter rail in place from Reading/Wyomissing to Norristown. The study was released on Tuesday, and a synopsis of the results came out Wednesday, Oct. 5.
The results show tolling is feasible but may not be the answer—at least for now.
According to the 422plus Project, approximately 65,000 commuters use the stretch of 422 between Collegeville and Royersford daily, and by 2035, the study predicts that number will balloon to more than 93,000.
With the increased traffic on an already clogged road, improvements are necessary, and the study details the ways tolling could help fund the improvements. More than $700 million in improvements have already been identified by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT).
“The new toll revenues added to the pot of traditional public funding could accelerate improvements to the U.S. 422 corridor’s transportation infrastructure,” the synopsis states. “Such improvements would make travel times shorter than would be the case without tolls in the years to come.”
Tolling, according to the synopsis, would generate $59 million in 2015 and $85 million in 2035, in 2010 dollars. A tolling authority developed just for Route 422 would have $1.1 billion to invest including state funding, according to the study.
The 422plus Project, just for the purpose of the study, also outlined four locations for the tolls, with the proposed opening day prices. Tolls listed in the synopsis for the purpose of the study would range from $0.50 to $0.80 and two would be located in the Phoenixville area—one at the bridge over the Schuylkill River and another between Route 29 and the Oaks/Egypt Road interchange.
In the 422plus synopsis, one of the findings was that all tolls should be electronic, using the EZPass system. Users without an EZPass would have their license plates photographed and would be sent a bill by mail.
Those behind the study also examined the improvements needed. More than $700 million in capital improvements have been identified by the state department of transportation, the study states. However, PennDOT can only be expected to fund $243 million from now through 2019.
The study concluded that tolling the road could help fund public improvements, reduce congestion and also fund a passenger rail from Reading to Norristown.
However, a funding package proposed by the Governor’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission (TFAC) would enable some of the improvements to Route 422 to proceed, without tolling.
“If the governor and legislature advance this package,” the synopsis states, “increased state funding would enable the highway improvements to proceed along 422, although funding for the rail line may still be a challenge. However, if such statewide funding does not advance, local officials may want to consider a locally based solution such as tolling.”
A press release issued today by DVRPC stated that while the study showed tolling as a feasible option, it may not be necessary now.
“When this study began in 2010, the outlook for additional transportation funding in Pennsylvania appeared bleak,” the release states. “While the 422plus study has documented the feasibility of raising sufficient revenue to support the needed improvements through a locally-managed toll, public comments to date have pointed toward a comprehensive statewide—rather than local—solution.”
The press release, like the synopsis, pointed to the possibility of TFAC funding. There was also a nod to public discontent over possible tolls.
“We heard the public loud and clear, and we realize tolling may not be the best option for funding 422 at this time,” DVRPC Executive Director Barry Seymour said.
TFAC proposed that transportation funding could come from an increased oil company franchise tax (up to $1.3 billion per year), raising vehicle and driver fees like registration costs ($574 million annually), moving state police funding to the general fund ($300 million would be freed up) and alotting 2 percent of the state sales tax to transportation (up to $172 million per year).
To see the entire synopsis and the list of findings of the 422plus Project, visit www.422plus.com.