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Former Reporter Asks Commissioners To Support 422 Tolls

SANATOGA PA – Authors of a study that may suggest tolling drivers on U.S. Route 422, and using that money to improve the highway and reduce its congestion, “are not making their case well enough in the court of public opinion,” says a former journalist who now serves on the Spring City PA borough council. He thinks local municipalities should do more to promote the plan.

Westbound traffic, at left, travels U.S. Route 422 between its Royersford and Phoenixville interchanges in this May 2009 Post file photo.

In a letter reviewed Monday (Oct. 4, 2010), former newspaper reporter Michael Hays asked the Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township Board of Commissioners to consider “being a proponent and active advocate of the benefits of this ‘user tax/fee’ or toll.” Commissioners accepted Hays’ letter under advisement and said they could give it further consideration, but did not comment or act on it.

One reason: only three of five board members – James Phillips, who acted as temporary chairman, Michael McGroarty and James Kaiser – were present at Monday’s meeting, the first of two scheduled for October. Both President Jonathan Spadt and Vice President Bruce Foltz were absent, and “the board probably should hear from everyone on this before commenting,” township Manager Rodney Hawthorne noted.

Commissioners have not yet taken a public stand on acceptance of land use principles and strategies contained in a Route 422 master plan being circulated by the Montgomery County Planning Commission, or on the value of the proposal to institute tolls, which officially is still being investigated.

Hays, who once reported for The (Pottstown PA) Mercury newspaper and then worked with the hyper-local online news resource called “What’s The 422?,” left journalism last year when he was elected to the Spring City council. His Sept. 22 letter to Lower Pottsgrove‘s elected officials, he wrote, was offered “in an individual capacity” and not as a member of any other group or of the council.

“I ask you to consider joining with other officials along the (25-mile-long Route 422) corridor in a unique advocacy role,” Hays wrote to the commissioners. Besides promoting tolling, he asked the board to “keep an open mind about this concept” and be willing to sign an online petition to express “support for tolls under specific conditions” which were not described but on which Hays promised details later.

“Tolls are without question politically tenuous at this time,” Hays acknowledged. “Many residents (and) taxpayers are angry about government spending.” Solving “this infrastructure problem will not be easy,” he wrote, “but if left undone, our future is certain: more gridlock and pollution.”

Hays’ letter was made public on the same day that Philadelphia radio station KYW-AM aired reports that quoted county Assistant Planning Director Leo Bagley as saying the study looking at financing for 422 improvements could be completed by year’s end. If tolling was proposed and accepted, Bagley told the station, electronically collected fees might be implemented within three to five years.

Related (to U.S. Route 422 Corridor planning):

Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ meeting of Oct. 4):

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