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Berks business leaders hear PennDOT's plan for Route 222

By Kimberly Davidow, Reporter
Published On: Feb 25 2013 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 26 2013 06:08:25 PM CST

Driving between Berks County and the Lehigh Valley could soon get easier.

SPRING TWP., Pa. -

Driving between Berks County and the Lehigh Valley could soon become easier, but cutting down on all the congestion hinges on Gov. Tom Corbett's budget. That's the message his transportation secretary brought to Berks County on Tuesday.  

Corbett's proposed budget could make widening the northern part of Route 222 into four lanes a reality.

For that to happen, however, PennDOT will need more money allocated to Berks County and state lawmakers will have to vote on it, said Barry Schoch, secretary of transportation.

"Right now, we're having the dialogue of should we increase funding for transportation. If we do, projects like 222 could happen," said Schoch.

Corbett's 2013-2014 budget proposal gives PennDOT an additional $1.8 billion for highway maintenance and construction.

"When you're looking at $2 billion spread statewide, it means that share is basically used for maintaining what we have, not building anything new," said Schoch, who spoke about the projects during a luncheon hosted by the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce.

Alan Piper, county transportation planner, said there is a great need to change the layout of Route 222 between Genesis Drive and the Kutztown Bypass.

"It's impeding the ability of Berks County to do business in the commute," said Piper.

Schoch said Corbett's budget plan has a formula for funding these types of projects through adjusting the rates for driver registrations and license fees and increasing the gas tax drivers pay at the pump.

"We're looking at adjusting the rates for inflation," said Schoch.

"If we make those improvements to both congestion and safety, you're eliminating the hazards to your personal well-being and you're saving yourself money from all the gas you're burning while you're sitting in those backups," said Piper.

Not all state legislators are on board with the governor's five-year plan, Schoch said.