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A video survey draws attention to repairing Rt. 422, explores tolling possibilities

In the past decade, traffic on US Route 422 has increased by 50 percent. The highway spur that connects Hershey to King of Prussia has seen many efforts to reduce traffic--from narrowing lanes to adding a third lane in some sections--go nowhere. After publishing a master plan for 422, which included an extension to SEPTA's R6 as well as several roadway improvements, municipalities were stuck on the issue of tolling, a measure many municipalities originally opposed.

To explore the tolling possibility, a group of local and regional government agencies created the 422plus Project, an outreach campaign to create awareness and get public reaction. For their latest effort, project officials tapped former Fox 29 features reporter Gerald Kolpan to create a video survey gauging public reaction to tolling and the proposed 422 improvements.

"When people hear the word 'toll' they are generally upset and don't want to pay it," says Kolpan. "But one of the things we found out was that, if you ask the question correctly, people really weren't averse to paying. If the money that is raised on 422 stays on 422 and doesn't end up in some project in Western Pennsylvania, Harrisburg or Washington, only one person we talked to said they would be opposed."

Talking with business leaders and everyday drivers, Kolpan gets a man-on-the-street view of everything from traffic to tolls. Beyond where the money is going, Kolpan says, citizens worry that toll booths will further congest traffic and prefer some sort of automatic system, like high-speed EZ-Pass transponders for all drivers. The video survey and the 422plus Project's other efforts will culminate in a final report on the pros and cons of tolling, which will be released in 2011.

"One of the biggest problems that people have is that they don't have any alternative to driving, unless you want to take a horse or a bicycle," says Kolpan. "Fixing 422 is very important to them and they are waiting to see what the findings are."

Source: Gerald Kolpan, 422plus Project
Writer: John Steele
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