DRPA History Timeline

Delaware River Port Authority - 80 Years of Progress

1818

Proposed Plan Residents of the Delaware Valley first began discussing the idea of building a bridge across the Delaware River. Conjuring up the best resources of 19th Century engineering, they envisioned a low structure with a complex array of openings to accommodate both the sailing ships and the horse-drawn vehicles of the day.

1913

With the dawn of the motorized era, Philadelphia forms the Penn Memorial Bridge Committee to study the bridge issue.

1916

New Jersey Governor James F. Fielder appoints the Delaware River and Tunnel Commission. Philadelphia agrees to jointly fund a bridge feasibility study.

1919

Both state legislatures approve creation of the Delaware River Bridge Joint Commission.

December 12, 1919

The first meeting of the Delaware River Bridge Joint Commission is called to order by its chairman, Pennsylvania Governor William C. Sproul. Among those serving as Pennsylvania commissioners are the commonwealth's auditor general and treasurer and Philadelphia Mayor Thomas B. Smith. The commission's vice chairman is Richard T. Collings, the former mayor of Collingswood, N.J. Collings became known as the "Father of the Delaware River Bridge." The other New Jersey commissioners are members of the state's Interstate Bridge and Tunnel Commission.

Bridge Construction 1920

In one of its first official acts, the commission names Ralph Modjeski as bridge engineer and Leon S. Moisseiff as design engineer. Together they face the task of designing and building the longest suspension bridge in the world at that time. Modjeski proves to be a hands-on, energetic manager who regularly climbs around the construction site despite his advancing years. To the bridge building fraternity, this becomes "Ralph Modjeski's Bridge."

1921

President Warren G. Harding signs legislation authorizing construction of the bridge. January 6, 1922 -- Bridge construction begins. Presiding over the ceremony are Pennsylvania Governor William Sproul and New Jersey Governor Edward I. Edwards.

1923

The Joint Commission rejects the name "Franklin Bridge" and official designates the structure as the "Delaware River Bridge."

July 1, 1926

More than 25,000 people attend the official opening ceremony of the Delaware River Bridge. Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot and New Jersey Governor A. Harry Moore preside. After the ceremony an estimated 100,000 people (including an 87-year-old Civil War veteran in full uniform) walk across the bridge before it opens to vehicular traffic. The following day, President Calvin Coolidge arrives to dedicate the bridge.

Bridge Expanded to 8 Lanes 1948

A study by the Delaware River Joint Bridge Commission recommends the creation of a regional port authority. The goal, according to the study, is to centralized port responsibilities and enhanced port facilities. The study also recommends the construction of a second bridge and a high speed commuter rail line.

July 17, 1951

Following agreement by Pennsylvania and New Jersey, President Harry S. Truman signs the bill creating the Delaware River Port Authority as the successor agency to the Delaware River Joint Bridge Commission. The legislation gives the new agency the responsibility to "promote" international trade for Delaware River ports. President Truman also signs a companion bill that permits construction of a second Delaware River crossing.

Ben Franklin Bridge 1953

Construction begins on the second suspension bridge, this one between South Philadelphia and Gloucester City, N.J.

1955

The Delaware River Port Authority designates a special committee to consider names for the two bridges. The committee recommends renaming the "Delaware River Bridge" as the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Also, in recognition of the many years the "Good Gray Poet's" lived in Camden, it recommends naming the second crossing the "Walt Whitman Bridge." That becomes the first major U.S. bridge named for a poet.

May 15, 1957

New Jersey Governor Robert B. Meyner and Pennsylvania Auditor General Charles C. Smith dedicate and open the Walt Whitman Bridge. Within two decades the bridge will have a major impact on the Delaware Valley, leading to the development of the Philadelphia Food Distribution Center, Veterans Stadium, the Spectrum, the Atlantic City Expressway and New Jersey's Black Horse Pike communities.

1960

Planning begins for a high speed rail line between New Jersey and Philadelphia.

1961

Planning begins for additional river crossings. The Delaware River Port Authority and other port interests conduct their first overseas trade mission.

June 11, 1964

Construction begins on the PATCO Speedline that will link Center City Philadelphia with Lindenwold, N.J.

June 13, 1964

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs legislation extending DRPA jurisdiction into Delaware County, Pa., to permit construction of the Commodore Barry Bridge.

1965

New Jersey and Pennsylvania approve plans for construction of the Betsy Ross Bridge.

Bridge Construction 1966

New Jersey and Pennsylvania approve plans for construction of the Commodore Barry Bridge.

September 7, 1967

The Delaware River Port Authority establishes a subsidiary unit, the Port Authority Transit Corporation, to operate the PATCO Speedline.

January 4, 1969

The first PATCO Speedline trains runs between Lindenwold and Camden. PATCO represents a new generation in urban transit systems. It is highly automated, using only one operator per train and ticket vending machines in all stations. Nevertheless, PATCO quickly earns the reputation as a customer-friendly system and begins to be called the most efficient and dependable public transit system in the United States.

Commodre Barry Bridge February 15, 1969

PATCO service begins to Philadelphia.

June 26, 1969

Construction begins on the Commodore Barry Bridge linking Chester, Pa., and Bridgeport, N.J. The bridge is named after the American Revolutionary War hero and father of the American Navy. An Irish immigrant, Barry lived in Philadelphia.

July 31, 1969

Construction begins on the Betsy Ross Bridge linking Northeast Philadelphia with Pennsauken, N.J. Again the Delaware River Port Authority makes history -- the Betsy Ross becomes the first U.S. bridge named after a woman.

February 1, 1974

The Commodore Barry Bridge opens and the Chester-Bridgeport Ferry runs for the last time.

April 30, 1976

The Betsy Ross Bridge opens.

January 20, 1978

The Benjamin Franklin Bridge carries its one billionth vehicle

November 1, 1988

Pennsylvania Governor Robert P. Casey and New Jersey Governor Thomas H. Kean meet at St. Joseph's University. The governors agree on a three-step program. First, the states will work to amend the Delaware River Port Authority's bi-state charter to enable it to engage in port unification and regional economic development. Second, the Delaware River Port Authority will build an intermodal rail facility in Philadelphia. Third, the agency will help revitalize Camden's business district by constructing a new headquarters building along the Delaware River.

July 3, 1990

The Walt Whitman Bridge carries its one billionth vehicle.

July 3, 1991

At a "Golden Spike" ceremony the Delaware River Port Authority takes the first step in fulfilling the mandate by the two governors. The ceremony marks the start of construction for "AmeriPort," a regional intermodal transfer facility that will improve the flow of containerized cargo through the port.

October 1, 1992

One-Way Tolls take effect on all four Delaware River Port Authority bridges as well as the Delaware Memorial Bridge, Tacony-Palmyra Bridge and Burlington-Bristol Bridge. The move to westbound-only toll collection is immediately popular with commuters and reduces traffic congestion on the bridges and the approach roadways.

1992

New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Congress approve a new Delaware River Port Authority compact that broadens the agency's mandate in the fields of port enhancement and economic development.

October 27, 1992

President George Bush signs the bill that amends the bi-state compact. The new compact broadens the responsibilities of the Delaware River Port Authority and expands its area of responsibility to include the Pennsylvania counties of Bucks, Chester and Montgomery.

December 11, 1992

A severe winter storm threatens to topple the steeple of St. Augustine's Church onto the deck of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. For safety reasons, the bridge is closed for part of three days while workers struggle through high winds to remove the steeple.

February 1993

Containers unloaded from an Australian ship move to the newly completed AmeriPort facility where they are loaded onto railroad cars for transport to Canada. Soon rail cars from CP Rail, CSX and Conrail are moving in and out of AmeriPort, making it the Northeast's only three-railroad intermodal facility. In response to increasing cargo demands, the Delaware River Port Authority develops plans to expand AmeriPort.

1993

Using its new economic development mandate, the Delaware River Port Authority begins investing in public improvements and private-sector initiatives. The program adds public attractions at Penn's Landing and the Camden aquarium while low-interest loans help the expansion of Philadelphia's American Street Enterprise Zone and other project.

May 12, 1994

Pennsylvania Governor Robert P. Casey and New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman formally approve the unification of the Delaware River ports. Called "The Port of Philadelphia and Camden," the new agency functions as a Delaware River Port Authority subsidiary with its own bi-state board of directors. James Weinstein is elected the first chairman.

November 16, 1994

Construction begins on One Port Center, the new Delaware River Port Authority headquarters building on the Camden waterfront. With the building's 1996 opening, the agency will complete all three missions outlined by the governors in 1988.

December 21, 1994

The Delaware River Port Authority commemorates 75 years of service to the Delaware Valley. It awaits further challenges.

1995

Toll collectors begin a formal "Thank You" program. A comprehensive customer-service initiative follows.

One Port Center March 1996

One Port Center opens. It is soon fully occupied, including a ground-floor restaurant serving the Camden Waterfront.

1996

AmeriPort begins loading "double-stack" containers, an improvement that helps make the Port of Philadelphia and Camden more competitive.

October 22, 1997

Joining a federal-state-city effort, DRPA helps forge an agreement to convert the former Philadelphia Navy Yard to a civilian shipbuilding center.

1998

DRPA completes a four-year cycle of budget and staffing reductions. At a time when its responsibilities greatly increased, DRPA produces spending reductions unmatched in the country.

PATCO becomes the first public transit system in the United States to meet its goal under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In a Memorial Day ceremony, DRPA joins with local interests to open the Philadelphia Cruise  Terminal at Pier 1. The Port of Philadelphia and Camden assumes operating and marketing control.

Planning begins for the proposed "Delaware River Tram" and the "Sound-and-Light Show."

The Port of Philadelphia and Camden completes its best-year-ever in terms of international commerce flow.

E-ZPass Electronic Toll Collection System November 1999

DRPA signs its first contracts to lease fiber-optic lines across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

Twenty-five years after getting out of the ferry business, DRPA agrees to take over operations of the RiverLink Ferry, which carries visitors between Penn's Landing and the Camden Waterfront.

December 1999

DRPA announces completion of its largest maintenance project ever, the redecking of the Walt Whitman Bridge. It then accepts bids on an even larger project -- removing all paint and repainting the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

December 18, 1999

All four bridges turn on the E-ZPass Electronic Toll Collection System.

December 1999

DRPA commemorates 80 years of service to the people of southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. It awaits further challenges.

April 1, 2000

DRPA takes over operations of the RiverLink Ferry.

July 30, 2000

The Benjamin Franklin Bridge’s new decorative lighting system provides the background for the opening reception of the Republican National Convention.

December 2000

DRPA bridges begin receiving permanent median barriers to improve traffic flow.

December 6, 2000

Work begins on the Delaware River Aerial Tram.

July 1, 2001

Tens of thousands of pedestrians help celebrate the Benjamin Franklin Bridge’s 75th birthday. The ceremony also features the first public showing in more than 50 years of the restored "Winged Victory" statues.

April 30, 2001

The Betsy Ross Bridge celebrates its Silver Anniversary.

January 16, 2002

PATCO starts the most comprehensive renovation and modernization initiative in its history called "PATCO at Work."

October 16, 2002

The World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia is launched.

March 29, 2003

The Freedom Ferry joins the RiverLink Ferry System.

February 15, 2004

PATCO celebrates its 35th anniversary.

May 2004

The World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia is spun off as an independent organization

July 19, 2004

DRPA merges E-ZPass operations with New Jersey E-ZPass to offer customers enhanced services and online account access.

November 2005

DRPA/PATCO received $1.5 million in funding from the New Jersey Department of Transportation for the Alternatives Analysis phase of the transit expansion project.

June 2005

The Philadelphia Cruise Terminal hosted Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America on its inaugural voyage along the East Coast.

May 2006

Began pilot program at PATCO to test the new fare collection system which utilizes smart card technology.

November 2006

PATCO launched its new website www.ridepatco.org

July 1, 2006

The Benjamin Franklin Bridge celebrated its 80th Anniversary.

May 16, 2007

The Walt Whitman Bridge celebrated its Golden Anniversary.

November 2007

PATCO implements Transit Ambassador Program

March 2008

PATCO fully implements FREEDOM Smart Card fare collection system

May 2008

DRPA joins with SJPC and PRPA to launch a “Green Port” initiative

October 2008

PATCO sets one day ridership record for the Phillies World Series Victory Parade

January 2009

PATCO launches FREEDOM to Save Program