Delaware River tolls likely to drop

| 8/26/2003

Tolls on bridges over the Delaware River between Pennsylvania and New Jersey will go down soon, according to media reports.

Gov. James McGreevey of New Jersey and Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania are working out the details of a deal that would reduce the recently increased tolls. The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission increased the tolls last November on seven bridges it maintains between the two states. The tolls support maintenance on the total 20 bridges over the river operated by the commission.

In some cases, tolls would have increased 300 percent. On five of the bridges, The Intelligencer reported, five-axel truck tolls went from $4 to $11.25. The increases have produced protests among commuters and lawsuits from trucking organizations

The Intelligencer said Aug. 25 that Rendell told legislators in his state about the planned cuts during a conference call.

The tolls became the subject of controversy earlier this year when local media sources revealed that the increases would pay for things besides bridge work.

The bridge commission said the new rates were needed to help fund a 10-year, $526 million capital improvement plan for economic development. However, The Trentonian reported in early March that a portion of the toll hikes would pay 45 percent raises to the top three executives of the bridge commission. Frank G. McCartney, executive director of the commission, defended the pay hikes, telling the newspaper the raises were designed to “retain talent” to help with the commission’s plan to rehabilitate its bridges.

In addition, The Allentown Morning Call reported earlier this year the commission intended to use about $250 million from the increases for unauthorized projects, including economic development such as projects on waterfront property and airport work.

Rendell’s proposal would give most of the $250 million back to toll payers, including truckers. He would like to keep $30 million of that for bridge work. McGreevey, however, would like to keep $100 million of the $250 million.