Public Forum on 422 Addresses Concerns
State representatives asked for public input at an open forum on Tuesday.
Hundreds of folks at a meeting on Tuesday agreed U.S. Route 422 is a dangerous, congested mess.
They also said there's no cheap or easy way to solve the route's problems and shot down the notion to toll the road as a way to generate revenue.
The 422 concerns were discussed at a public forum hosted by state representatives Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery County; Marcy Toepel, R-Montgomery County; Tom Quigley, R-Montgomery County and Warren Kampf, R-Chester and Montgomery counties. The event was held at Pope John Paul II High School in Royersford.
Prior to the forum, Kampf and Vereb discussed some of their concerns.
Kampf said he's lived in the 422 area since he was a baby.
"(422) has gotten progressively more crowded, especially at rush hour," he said. "I oppose tolling the roadway."
A proposal to toll 422 would cost area residents "substantial sums" of money, he said.
"It's like a form of double taxation," Kampf said.
Vereb said he can't imagine a "local road" being tolled.
"I think what all of us are concerned about ... the traffic is almost unbearable as it is going in toward Philadelphia," Vereb said. "It's a dangerous road. It's a four-lane main street ... It has people pretty upset."
During the forum, which lasted over two hours, some folks in the roughly 400-member audience at various times cheered, booed and yelled when certain ideas were raised.
"Doing nothing is not an option that I choose," said Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel. Folks in the crowd shouted in anger after his comment.
Quigley said tolling 422 is, "Another opportunity to cost (small business owners) money." People applauded that sentiment.
But mostly, the audience asked questions -- which they wrote on cards during the event -- that Vereb read aloud and the panel tried to answer.
Some of the possible remedies discussed included:
• Tolling could operate similar to the PA Turnpike E-ZPass system.
• Tolls could be spread out to allow free local travel, and/or lower tolls could be charged during weekend or off-peak hours.
• Tolls could raise roughly $60 million per year and increase over time.
• A new state gas tax could help pay for work needed on Route 422.
• The Norristown train line could be extended to the Reading and Philly areas in an effort to reduce car traffic. This could cost roughly $370 million.
• Of the estimated $750 million needed to improve 422, $243 million has been programmed into the state's Dept. of Transportation budget over the next eight years.
"There's not enough (PennDOT) money to fix 422," Hoeffel said.
No plan could be approved fast and easy, Toepel said and added several levels of government would have to sign off on a proposal.
"That's a slippery slope as well," she said of legislation needed to plan for the road's future.
After the forum, Upper Pottsgrove Township resident Susan Ziemba -- who brought her son Alex, 11, to the event -- discussed her concerns on the issue.
"The misappropriation of funds from PennDOT," she said and gave an example of "excessive" work the state has done to Maugers Mill Road in her neighborhood. "They're actually working there right now, tonight."
Ziemba said she wants 422 to be made safe and convenient, but not at additional cost to area residents.
"I want to see it fixed," she said. "But I do not want to see tolls."
Janice Kearney, a candidate for Montgomery County's Lower Providence Township board of supervisors, said tolling 422 would be a mistake.
"(Residents) are against this ... tolling, especially if it involves the rail option," she said.
Tuesday's open dialogue was a healthy way to address the issue, she said.
"I think this forum was fantastic," Kearney said. "It was definitely a step in the right direction."