The executive commission examining transportation funding in Pennsylvania will hear a proposal June 6 that could hit the wallets of Route 422 commuters.Let's set aside the fact that state government exists primarily to fund the creation and maintenance of infrastructure and let's not ask where all of THAT money has gone (nor will we question the reliance on fiscal federalism that got us to the place where we need to fund a $2.5 billion shortfall at this time). However, the suggestion to form a "local taxation authority" in this article should send chills down the spine of any thinking Pennsylvanian who has the tiniest bit of working knowledge of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority and the Delaware River Port Authority, long havens of political patronage jobs and fund mismanagement. Rule number one is never ever give the government a new revenue stream. Rule number two is never create a new local taxation authority to manage that revenue stream.
The 30-member commission, appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett, will see a presentation demonstrating how tolls on Route 422 in Montgomery, Chester and Berks counties could serve as a model for similar projects statewide. The commission is looking for a way to generate more than $2.5 billion in annual transportation funding in the post-stimulus environment of declining federal spending on infrastructure.
State Secretary of Transportation Barry Schoch, who also serves as chairman of the commission, said the Route 422 model would allow county or municipal authorities to form a “local taxation authority” and keep the revenue from tolls and local taxes dedicated for local highways.
That revenue would be “above and beyond” transportation spending at the state level, Schoch said.
But these are all issues that have been discussed before on this blog. Why I revisit the 422 tolling issue once more is because of a mailer I received today from Senator Andy Dinniman called "Moving Forward - A New Route 202." The mailer is not available online at the time of this post, however this press release from March 22, 2011 has the relevant passage that I was looking to excerpt:
"[T]he Route 29 slip ramp, the Turnpike Widening and the Route 202 Widening represent an investment of $523 million to our local economy, which is expected to spur at least an additional $1.5 billion in construction and the creation of up to 20,000 full-time jobs,” Dinniman said. “It will provide a significant boost to our region in challenging economic times.”According to Senator Dinniman's press release, the Route 29 slip ramp and Turnpike widening is a $48 million project that is funded entirely by Turnpike tolls.
The US Route 202 widening project is described as such on the project's website:
Significant growth in the region has increased traffic on US Route 202 to levels well beyond those that the two-lane highway originally was designed to handle. In fact, 73,000 vehicles a day now travel on this section of Route 202, and the improvements we have planned will help the highway carry its present and future traffic more efficiently.
Under the overall Section 300 project, PennDOT will utilize significant federal and state transportation funding, most of which is collected at the fuel pump and through licensing fees, to
So my question is this:
- Reconstruct Route 202's four existing travel lanes
- Add a third travel lane in each direction, utilizing the existing grass median
- Rebuild seven overpasses to provide additional horizontal and vertical clearance
- Construct a two-lane collector-distributor (C-D) roadway along northbound Route 202 at the Route 29/Great Valley Interchange to eliminate conflicts between ramp traffic and through traffic
- Improve the Route 401/Frazer Interchange and install new traffic signals
- Install Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) components, including highway cams and electronic message signs
- Improve the expressway’s storm water management system, and
- Erect sound walls at eligible locations
Route 202 corridor has benefitted from millions of dollars of investment in infrastructure improvment and widening in recent years, this latest "Section 300" of the project is only the most recent. And all the while this 202 improvement has been going on, US 422 has been almost completely neglected except for a cursory resurfacing here and there and a half-assed widening of the Betzwood Bridge that caused more problems than it solved.
And now, in order to improve 422 to give it's commuters the same state-of-the-art highway that Route 202 communters enjoy, Harrisburg is trying to tell Route 422 commuters that the only way to fund their necessary infrastructure improvements is through tolls. If tolls are so critical to the funding of our infrastructure as we've been led to believe, why not toll Route 202 as well? Why should 202 commuters not have to pay for their own improvements?
Oh, wait. We're forgetting that most critical of all central planning expenditures:
In the case of Route 422, the tolls also could pay for a commuter rail line to take some of the pressure off the highway between Reading and the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Interstates 76 and 476Oh yes. The TRAIN. Because trains are NOTORIOUSLY self-sustaining without subsidies (see: SEPTA), and effective at alleviating traffic (see: Route 202 and the Schuykill Expressway).
No one will ever be able to convince me that the impetus behind 422 tolling is to fund infrastructure to alleviate traffic. It sounds far more plausible that 422 tolls will be primarily used to fund another government run, public union-staffed, tax dollar subsidized public transportation sytem that will have absolutely no positive impact on the traffic that 422 commuters sit in every. Single. Day. Only 422 commuters will get the double insult and injury of having to pay for this indignity.
422 tolling is a bad idea that must never be implemented.