Toll Road, Rail Line Deal Announced … NOT For 422

YORK PA – A Pennsylvania-headquartered road and high-speed train contractor, Ameri-Metro of York, said Tuesday (Sept. 20, 2011) that a subsidiary it owns had “finalized an agreement” to build a new combination railway and toll road at a cost of $7 billion, representing a “once-in-a-lifetime project” that would generate 14,000 construction jobs.

Concept sketch of a train station proposed for a toll road-rail line project announced Tuesday in Alabama, which reportedly would be built by a York PA company

While that sounds somewhat similar to projects proposed for western Montgomery County PA during the past 18 months, and its timing seems ironic given public criticism of highway tolling voiced last week at a meeting in Royersford PA, rest assured you haven’t missed any important decisions. Ameri-Metro was NOT referring to U.S. Route 422.

Instead, its plans cover a 300-mile stretch from port operations in Southern Alabama to the Tennessee state line, the Andalusia (AL) Star News newspaper reported. Moreover, the newspaper added, the announcement “caught economic leaders throughout the state off-guard.” The Star News cited other media outlets’ reports that “officials with (Alabama) economic and transportation offices had no advance knowledge of the project being announced.”

Toll road and rail line discussions focused on the 422 Corridor from King of Prussia PA to the Berks County line have made headlines locally for some time, but were heightened with a highly charged public forum on the subject last week at Pope John Paul II High School in Royersford. The (Pottstown) Mercury newspaper, in an editorial published Thursday (Sept. 22), declared the suggestion to impose tolls along 422 to pay for highway and rail improvements there as “an idea … doomed through poor handling by its supporters and overwhelming opposition.”

The Alabama project, in contrast, is one the contractor claims has been reviewed over several years. Full details are still months from being finalized, Shah Mathias, chief executive officer of Ameri-Metro, told The Star News. However, he also said his company had an aggressive timeline that could enable work on the four-lane limited access toll road to begin in Fall 2012.

Just how realistic the timeline is, or even whether the Alabama project comes to fruition, is being openly questioned.

The Mobile (AL) Press-Register newspaper reported Thursday that a 2010 filing with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission at the time indicated Ameri-Metro was “thinly capitalized” and potentially unable to finance the ambitious proposal.