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I-95 A Big Problem; 422 A Solvable Problem (With Tolls)

POTTSTOWN PA – All things considered, Barry Seymour acknowledged last week, he’d rather talk about Interstate 95 through Philadelphia than U.S. Route 422 across its western suburbs.

Montgomery County Planning Commission Assistant Director Leo Bagley, foreground, and DVRPC Executive Director Barry Seymour, during last week's presentation

“I-95 is easily the most congested highway in our area,” Seymour, executive director of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), said Wednesday (June 22, 2011) in a presentation about 422 made to greater Pottstown public officials. I-95 needs the most improvement, he noted, and would cost the most to fix, but likely would have the greatest positive impact on area traffic conditions once solved.

Creating a local tolling system to fund repairs for I-95, however, in the way the DVRPC has suggested imposing tolls on 422, won’t happen any time soon, if ever. “Establishing tolls on an interstate is a very different process,” Seymour said with a subtle smile, as Pennsylvania learned last year when it proposed tolls on I-80, a move rejected by the federal Department of Transportation.

More improvements could be made to Routes 309 and 202, even though a substantial amount of work has already been completed on those roads. The Schuylkill Expressway, also an interstate highway facing the same tolling difficulties, is blocked on one side by a rail line and developments and on the other by the Schuylkill River. It lacks the room to be expanded.

That leaves 422, Montgomery County Planning Commission Assistant Director Leo Bagley chimed in. It’s a twice-daily car-choked, limited-access highway where problems will only worse with each passing year, he said. “We can identify a package of improvements that will make things there substantially better,” and without tolls “there are not a lot of other choices” for 422, he added.

“Tolling is the last resort,” confirmed Chester County planner Natasha Manbeck, from a seat at the back of the Borough Hall room where the Pottstown Metropolitan Regional Planning Commission was meeting.

The prospect of charging motorists more than $2.50 for a one-way trip over 422 from King of Prussia to Amity upsets some area residents and elected representatives alike, Seymour agreed. “It’s not easy to get from free to paying for something,” he admitted, “but you’ll be paying for certain improvement.”

“Otherwise, the problem’s not going to go away,” Bagley said, “and there’s no other money to fix it.”

Related (to the Pottstown Metropolitan Regional Planning Committee meeting of June 22)):

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

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