Truckers gain big ally in battle against Delaware River toll hikes

| Monday, March 24, 2003

Truckers have been complaining about recent bridge toll hikes along the Delaware River for some time now, with little result.

But now, truckers aren’t the only ones complaining.

According to a report by The Express Times, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell told an economic development meeting March 18 that he was unaware of how much the tolls had gone up – a subject of significant news coverage in the region – and that he intended to ask for an explanation from the Delaware Bridge Commission.

The governor fell short of guaranteeing a rollback of the toll hikes, and said some hikes might be needed. But his comments toward the sizable increases faced by users of the bridges – in some cases, 300 percent hikes – were in general negative.

Tolls for trucks and cars crossing bridges operated by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission jumped Nov. 30. Truckers’ tolls increased to $2.25 per axle. A second round of planned hikes will cost truckers $3.25 per axle starting in January 2004.

The commission, which operates 20 bridges between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, said the new rates would help fund a 10-year, $526 million maintenance plan.

The hikes have already generated considerable controversy. The Trentonian reported in early March that a portion of the toll hike was going to give the top three executives of the Delaware Bridge Commission a 45 percent raise. Frank G. McCartney, executive director of the commission, told the newspaper the raises were designed to “retain talent” to help with the commission’s plan to rehabilitate its 20 toll and non-toll bridges.

In addition, local business officials at the meeting where Rendell made his comments told the governor that the hikes were damaging their businesses, and that the toll commission was “unsympathetic” to the concerns, The Express-Times reported.

"The commission absolutely turned a deaf ear to this," Alan La Fiura, president of Portland's Ultra-Poly Corp., said.

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