POTTSTOWN, Pa. (CBS) – The fight over Route 422 is heating up.

On Thursday, a group of local state lawmakers spoke out against a plan to toll the 25-mile long expressway, which runs from King of Prussia to Pottstown and is known for notoriously long morning and evening delays.

“The cow is dry,” said Rep. Dave Maloney (R-Berks). “This is nothing more than another tax, and we can’t afford it.”

“We clearly understand the need for improvements to Route 422,” said Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery). “But frankly, western Montgomery County has been discriminated against in major road improvements.”

The lawmakers say other big highways in the region, including Routes 309 and 202, have seen significant upgrades and are still free. They worry tolls on 422 would drive commuters to congested back roads like Ridge Pike or Route 23 and would create another bureaucratic tolling authority.

They say tolls only on Route 422 unfairly target drivers who live in that corridor.

“We have to remember that these people are paying for this road. They paid to build this road,” said Rep. Warren Kampf (R-Chester). “They’re paying gas taxes.”

On Monday, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission asked state officials to begin the process of putting tolls on the highway. The money collected would go to $1.1 billion in improvements including a restoration of rail service to Berks County and a widening of the highway to six lanes east of Collegeville and eight lanes east of Trooper Road. A new bridge over the Schuylkill River would also be built.

“The state has dropped the ball on 422,” said Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel, who’s in favor of the toll plan. “There’s not enough money to fix this problem.”

Hoeffel says the roadway improvements will cost about $750 million over the next decade, but PennDOT has only budgeted $250 million.

The tolls would be collected at four entirely electronic toll gantries (in King of Prussia, near Collegeville, east of Pottstown and in Douglassville) which means traffic would not have to stop. Customers with EZ-Pass would be charged through their accounts. The toll gantries would take a picture of vehicles without EZ-Pass and drivers would get a bill in the mail.

The charge would be $.11 per mile, or $2.65 for a one-way trip. That adds up to $1,300 for a commuter who drives the entire length of the road, five days a week for a year.

“It is a big plan. It’s trying to resolve a very big program,” Hoeffel said. “Four twenty-two is broken twice a day, and it’s only going to get worse.”

The plan still needs permission from lawmakers in Harrisburg and the approval of county commissioners in Berks, Chester and Montgomery Counties.

Reported by Ben Simmoneau, CBS 3

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