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New fee is wrong formula for traffic funding: Our view

Development is among the sharpest of double-edged swords.

As a sign of economic health, it brings people and buildings and tax revenue. But it also brings traffic, traffic and more traffic. And someone has to pay for all those new roads and signs and traffic lights.

Since 1991 Pennsylvania has allowed municipalities to charge a one-time traffic impact fee on new developments. Few have elected to do so, and for good reason. The extra fee can be a deal-breaker for many developers and is likely to become even more of one as interest rates rise and other costs go up.

But at least one township in Central Pennsylvania recently decided to give the fee a spin: Silver Spring Township, one of the fastest-growing in the state.

If you’ve ever sat in traffic on the Carlisle Pike, you can understand why Silver Spring feels the need for more revenue. Its roads are increasingly overwhelmed.

Money is needed to keep travel safe and to preserve the quality of life we cherish in Central Pennsylvania. If we wanted to sit in traffic all day, we would move closer to the Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia or the Capital Beltway around Washington, D.C. (although Harrisburg’s version has been giving its larger sibling a run for its money).

But the burden of fixing our growing problems should not fall solely on the people who are powering our economy: developers and investors whose projects create jobs and wealth for our communities. Developers have a vested interest in making sure people can get in and out of the places they create. Many already agree to help fund road improvements in and around new developments.

Nor should the burden fall on a single township, especially one whose shops and restaurants are a draw for people from all over the region. Most of the cars in Silver Spring on any given day likely originate outside its borders.

Transportation funding is complex, involving a cloudy brew of federal, state and local money. We applaud Silver Spring Township for being transparent about its needs. But we believe it would better serve its residents and job creators by looking elsewhere to meet them.

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