County deserves better than the toll road plan
Once again, attention is on U.S. 522 due to the notion that a new 4-lane highway might be funded by making it a toll road. People who have moved here in recent years often seem unaware, but a 4-lane U.S. 522 was a hot topic of debate through most of the 1990s and the first years of this century.
What often got lost in the debate, however, was the source of all those cars and trucks on U.S. 522. Except for some of those Friday afternoon traffic jams, most of the traffic is local. They are us.
Consider this. The Division of Highways' traffic count shows fewer than 5,200 vehicles daily at the Virginia line. But about 15,500 were counted at the Hancock Bridge. So, 10,300 vehicles – or two-thirds of the total — are not traveling north-south completely through the county. Mostly, this is the daily exchange of business between Berkeley Springs and Hancock, commuters going to and from work, and tourists coming in from Maryland.
Those who believe local drivers shouldn't have to pay tolls on the new road are missing the point. The plan is designed to make local drivers pay. Since most of the traffic is local, a healthy share of the toll revenue will come from people going about their daily lives. It's questionable whether a 4-lane highway can be funded with tolls, but if you take local traffic out of the picture, there's no chance at all.
The other odd thing about this ill-conceived proposal is the effect it will have on vehicles coming from Great Cacapon, Cold Run Valley and points west. Since the present U.S. 522 would be discontinued north of town, all northbound traffic would have to take the new bypass or Fairview Drive. This means drivers from Rt. 9 West wouldn't be able to turn left and sail north, but would have to wander through town to get on the bypass or Fairview Drive.
If the Division of Highways is serious about solving our traffic problems, they should take a fresh look at how things are today. The community deserves better than pulling out old plans and charging a toll to build them.