Toll plan isn
If you read our report last week about the state's toll road study for U.S. 522, you probably understood why the Division of Highways didn't want to give out copies. The proposal just doesn't seem very well thought out at this point.
Even the state's consultant pointed out that there would be local anger since the alternative to the new toll road would be to take Fairview Drive and River Road from Berkeley Springs to Hancock. It's hard to imagine lots of traffic on those roads. And, to upgrade those roads substantially would only raise more ire from property owners and add millions to the costs involved with a new, 4-lane U.S. 522.
In fact, we're a little baffled by the money figures in the state report. The study says the new highway would cost about $190 million, plus $17.5 million for the toll plaza near U.S. Silica. But the Division of Highways' own website puts U.S. 522 costs at $400 million.
Meanwhile, the most likely estimate for toll income is $189 million between 2011 and 2031, and this includes tolls on local traffic as well as ever increasing traffic counts. It just doesn't add up, particularly when you pay back bonds and investors over 20 or 30 years.
Once again we would stress that the idea of building a new U.S. 522 and making it a toll road is still a very preliminary notion. No real action has been taken. This doesn't mean, however, that it's too early for people to show opposition.
While some claim it's premature to oppose the plans, we would point out that in May, the Division of Highways sent out news releases statewide saying U.S. 522 appears feasible for tolls and promising they wouldn't proceed without community support. To us, that sure sounds like they were inviting comment.
If highway officials in Charleston don't hear no to tolls, they'll believe everyone thinks it's all fine and dandy.