Earlier today, Andrew Kefer posted the following question under the post, “Beyond the Borough’s Borders – Part 2.”
“I was wondering if you can comment on the news of Borough Council’s voting of 5-2 against the comprehensive plan to improve US 422 and restore commuter rail service in the Schuylkill Valley?”
I replied that I wasn’t up to speed on that, but I’d find the study/plan and get back to him. So, here we go.
Caveat: I wasn’t at any of the meetings where the Plan was presented by Montgomery County planners, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission planners or consultants, so this first pass comes from online material. I’m glad to share the official information and resources provided by the 422PLUS Steering Committee at their website, which is separate from any of the involved agencies’ websites. They are obviously making an effort to keep the public informed at one central location and with a clear, unified message.
Here’s the upshot of the US 422 Corridor Master Plan from their website:
“Deteriorating travel conditions, sprawling and uncoordinated land develop[ment] patterns, and limited funding for transportation improvements plague the 422 Corridor. The Master Plan identifies 10 strategies for managing growth, development, and travel demands, and illustrates a “Sustainable Scenario” that encourages more compact development, maintenance of open space, and more mobility choice within the 422 Corridor.”
Basically, the plan incorporates the most up-to-date thinking about how to influence and control development patterns so we can stop gobbling up open space, start re-using existing town centers and more urbanized areas like Pottstown, and give people more travel choices than just their cars.
And then they go and steal some of my thunder for the build-up and grand conclusion of my planning series! But, hey, they say – and illustrate – it much better than I ever could. Check out their “Sustainability Strategies” brochure specifically for Pottstown. Everyone should become very familiar with this brochure, especially if you can’t make it through the entire Master Plan. And please, please check out the Strategies and Assets & Opportunities/Key Recommendations near the end of the brochure. This brochure just made it into my final line-up of VERY IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS CONCERNING POTTSTOWN’S FUTURE, along with the recent ULI Report and the 2008 Economic Development Strategic Plan.
In the 422PLUS Project section, the website provides info. about further study that will take place regarding the funding strategies for improving the 422 Corridor and possibly extending passenger rail service using existing freight lines. This is a follow-up study to two studies already completed in 2009: the US 422 Master Plan and the R6 Norristown Service Line Extension Study. No one’s being the least bit impetuous here. This is being studied, people are being surveyed and then they’re studying it again. This is what the planning process looks like.
Regarding the tolling issue: As we all know, funding is being slashed left and right. These agencies & planning bodies have to find money somewhere. While no one wants to hear about raising the cost of anything, frankly, the idea of having users pay for the maintenance and upgrading of roads they travel on just makes sense. I’ve sat in traffic on 422 going west plenty of times. I don’t live in the area, but if I’m using the road for frequent visits, shouldn’t I also contribute to its upkeep? Hitting up my EZPass is a simple, sensible solution.
And if some of that money goes toward making some existing freight tracks suitable for passenger rail (which people would have to purchase tickets to use), all the better.
And if there’s money for planning/constructing a passenger rail station in Pottstown, that’s the best yet.
If people don’t want to sit in traffic and don’t want to pay tolls, maybe they will want to live in a place like Pottstown (with its lively arts scene, new housing on the Mrs. Smith’s site, massive, beautiful single-family Victorians, cool restaurants and shops) and get to work by hopping on the train with their cappuccino from Churchill’s every morning. In fact, maybe fewer people would be commuting at all because Pottstown would become a place where larger corporations would want to locate and their employees might be able to get to work without even getting into a train or a car.
Andrew also asked if Pottstown’s vote would kill the project. Not at all. “Even Keel” described it pretty well in a comment on The Mercury article: “This plan will still be adopted and put into effect as there are 23 other municipalities who have a say. A majority of these will support it, or parts of it, and it will be adopted in some form at the County level. It will still have a benefit to Pottstown when adopted.”
Just look at the brochure for Pottstown. I know it must seem like an alternate reality – in a way, it is. But it doesn’t have to be. All these agencies and governmental entities want this to happen. They are asking Pottstown to join other towns, counties, planners and the business community, to participate, to make small area master plans (around a train station for instance), and to be an advocate for this and other regional efforts… that will benefit Pottstown. This is the kind of thing I’ve been talking about. Pottstown can and should be a part of this. Pottstown can do this.