NJ lawmaker proposes greater control over bridge commission

| 10/21/2003

A New Jersey lawmaker wants the state to have more control over the agency that sets tolls and manages bridges over the Delaware River, according to local media.

New Jersey and Pennsylvania governors appoint members to the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, but proponents of a bill to require the commission to hold public hearings in both states before increasing tolls say the agency operates mostly in secret and at the expense of drivers.

A3197, sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer, passed the Assembly Transportation Committee and has been forwarded to the full House for consideration.

The measure also orders the commission to provide both governors with detailed annual financial reports.

The bill was introduced in January amid controversy over toll increases the agency imposed last November for seven toll bridges it maintains between the two states and questions about how the revenue is to be spent, The Associated Press reported.

The increase hiked tolls on trucks from 80 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 $2.75 per axle.

The agency said the new rates were needed to help fund a 10-year, $526 million capital improvement plan.

Since then, The Morning Call reported that the commission intended to use about $250 million from the increases for unauthorized projects, including economic development.

Agency officials have denied they misled anyone about the commission’s intentions.

If signed into law, the provision must also be approved in Pennsylvania due to an interstate agreement that requires each state and Congress to adopt identical laws regulating its operation.