state lawmakers in districts along the Delaware River have proposed
legislation that would require Pennsylvania and New Jersey officials
to conduct annual audits of the agency that sets tolls and manages
bridges over the river, The Morning Call reported.
have also proposed a separate bill that would direct the Delaware
River Joint Toll Bridge Commission to adopt a uniform toll rate
for all of its bridges.
legislative proposals come amid controversy over toll increases
the bridge commission imposed last November for seven toll bridges
it maintains between Pennsylvania and New Jersey and questions about
how the revenue is to be spent.
increase hiked tolls on trucks from 50 cents per axle to $2.25 per
axle. Tolls on cars were doubled from 50 cents to $1. In 2004, truck
tolls are to increase again to $3.25 per axle.
commission said the new rates were needed to help fund a 10-year,
$526 million capital improvement plan for economic development.
then, The Morning Call reported that the commission intended
to use about $250 million from the increases for unauthorized projects.
agency officials deny they have misled anyone about the commission’s
intentions, Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton, said he plans to introduce
a bill requiring both states to conduct performance and financial
audits of the commission every year to guarantee that the toll revenue
is being properly managed.
using these bridges and paying these tolls deserve to know how the
toll revenues are being used,” Freeman said in a statement, “particularly
in light of the revelation that the commission was planning on using
some of the toll revenue for economic development that is beyond
its stated mission.”
provision was approved in New Jersey years ago but requires the
same language to be approved in Pennsylvania and in Congress before
it can be implemented.
addition, Rep. Rich Grucela, D-Nazareth, said he would introduce
legislation directing the commission to adopt a uniform toll rate
structure for all toll bridges under its authority.