Our History

Stewardship. Service. Community.

Proposed Plan

1818

Residents of the Delaware Valley raise the idea of building a bridge across the Delaware River. Conjuring up the best resources of 19th-century engineering, they envision a low structure with a complex array of openings to accommodate the sailing ships of the day below and horse-drawn vehicles above.

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 creates the Delaware River and Tunnel Commission. Philadelphia agrees to work with the commission to jointly fund a bridge feasibility study.

1919

Both the New Jersey and Pennsylvania 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. The commission’s vice chairman is Richard T. Collings, the former mayor of Collingswood, N.J., who comes to be known as the “Father of the Delaware River Bridge.”

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 what will be, at the time it opens, the longest suspension bridge in the world. 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 C. Sproul and New Jersey Governor Edward I. Edwards.

1923

The Joint Commission rejects the name Franklin Bridge and officially 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, with Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot and New Jersey Governor A. Harry Moore presiding. 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.

1936

The Bridge Line subway opens, offering service between Camden and Philadelphia via the Delaware River Bridge. The four stations are Broadway and City Hall in Camden and Franklin Square and 8th/Market in Philadelphia.

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 centralize port responsibilities and enhance port facilities. The study also recommends the construction of a second bridge and a high speed commuter rail line.

July 17, 1951

After Pennsylvania and New Jersey reach an agreement, 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 bridge across the Delaware River.

1952

The Bridge Line subway is extended from 8th and Market Streets to 16th and Locust Streets in Philadelphia.

1953

Construction begins on the second suspension bridge across the Delaware, 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 — a name considered, but rejected, in 1923. Also, in recognition of the many years the "Good Gray Poet" lived in Camden, the committee recommends naming the second crossing the Walt Whitman Bridge, making it 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, facilitating the success of commercial projects (the Philadelphia Food Distribution Center), sports and performance venues (Veterans Stadium and the Spectrum), and New Jersey highways (the Atlantic City Expressway and the Black Horse Pike).

1960

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

1961

Planning begins for two additional bridges.

The Delaware River Port Authority, teamed with other port interests, conducts its first overseas trade mission.

June 11, 1964

Construction begins on a high speed commuter rail line 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

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

1966

Pennsylvania and New Jersey 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 (PATCO), to operate a high speed commuter rail line.

January 4, 1969

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

February 15, 1969

PATCO service is extended from Camden to Center City, Philadelphia on the tracks of the previously operating Bridge Line.

June 26, 1969

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

July 31, 1969

Construction begins on the Betsy Ross Bridge, linking Northeast Philadelphia with Pennsauken, N.J. Again the DRPA makes history: the Betsy Ross Bridge is the first U.S. highway bridge named after a woman.

February 1, 1974

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

1976

The Franklin Square PATCO station, unused since 1953, reopens to coincide with the Bicentennial celebration. It will close again in 1979.

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 agree on a three-part program. First, the states will work to amend the DRPA's bi-state charter to enable it to engage in port unification and regional economic development. Second, the Authority will build an intermodal rail facility in Philadelphia. Third, the DRPA 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 DRPA takes the first step in fulfilling the mandate set in 1988. 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 DRPA bridges, as well as the Delaware Memorial Bridge, Tacony-Palmyra Bridge and Burlington-Bristol Bridge. The move to westbound-only toll collection, which reduces traffic congestion on the bridges and approach roadways, is immediately popular with commuters.

1992

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

October 27, 1992

President George H.W. Bush signs the bill that officially amends the bi-state compact as agreed to earlier in the year. The new compact not only broadens the responsibilities of the Delaware River Port Authority, it expands its area of responsibility to include Bucks, Chester and Montgomery counties in the Pennsylvania.

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 DRPA develops plans to expand AmeriPort.

1993

Under its new economic development mandate, the Delaware River Port Authority begins investing in public improvements and private-sector initiatives. The program funds public attractions such as Penn's Landing and the Camden Aquarium, and makes low-interest loans to help the expansion of Philadelphia's American Street Enterprise Zone and other projects.

May 12, 1994

Pennsylvania Governor Robert P. Casey and New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman formally approve the unification of the Delaware River ports. The new agency, called the Port of Philadelphia and Camden, functions as a DRPA 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, an office building on the Camden Waterfront designed by world-famous architect Michael Graves. The building will be the headquarters of the Delaware River Port Authority. The opening will mark the completion of all three goals outlined by the governors in 1988.

1996

DRPA debuts on the World Wide Web with the launch of www.drpa.org. The website will provide historical background on DRPA facilities as well as up-to-date travel information.

March 1996

One Port Center opens. The 11-story, 175,000 square foot, Class-A building is soon fully occupied.

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

PATCO becomes the first public transit system in the United States to meet its goals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

May 25, 1998

In a Memorial Day ribbon-cutting, DRPA opens the Philadelphia Cruise Terminal at Pier 1 in a renovated naval factory built in 1874, one of the oldest buildings at the shipyard. The terminal is intended to allow for larger ships than those that had previously docked at Tioga Marine Terminal’s cargo wharves. Cruises will depart mostly for New England and Bermuda, with the peak year in 2006, when a record 36 cruises will depart.

November 1999

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

December 18, 1999

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

2000

A seven-year, $92 million project begins, in which workers will strip nearly 75 years’ worth of paint from the Ben Franklin Bridge and repaint the span in its trademark shade of blue. The many older layers of paint have gotten so thick that they are starting to peel off the bridge. Because many of those older layers used lead-based paint, it is necessary to isolate each section of the 5 million square feet of surface when it is stripped. About 25,000 gallons of primer and 35,000 gallons of paint will be used in the project.

April 1, 2000

DRPA assumes operations of the MV RiverLink, a ferry that carries visitors between Penn's Landing in Philadelphia and the Camden waterfront in New Jersey seven days a week. Passengers enjoy a scenic 20-minute cruise as they cross the Delaware River. Express service is available before concerts on the Camden Waterfront.

July 30, 2000

A recently upgraded decorative lighting system on the Ben Franklin Bridge showcases the span during the opening reception of the Republican National Convention.

December 2000

The first “zipper” machines, which move concrete barriers that separate traffic in opposing directions, are installed on DRPA bridges. It takes about 20 minutes for the machines to shift the entire barrier — made up of 1500-pound segments — from one lane to another.

July 1, 2001

The DRPA celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge by closing the span to all but pedestrian traffic as thousands of people, some in 1920s attire, cross the span. Vintage cars, trucks and fire engines are on display, as are two of the 1930s-era Bridge Line subway cars. The newly restored “Winged Victory” statues, which adorned pylons at either end of the bridge when it opened in 1926, are on public view for the first time in more than 50 years. Tours of the anchorages are provided.

March 29, 2003

The RiverLink Ferry System welcomes a double-ended ferry, the MV Freedom, to its fleet. Singer Patti LaBelle christens the ship before its maiden voyage, with area schoolchildren aboard.

July 19, 2004

DRPA merges E-ZPass operations on its bridges with New Jersey E-ZPass, providing customers with enhanced service and online account access.

September 2004

DRPA joins six other area transportation agencies to host the 72nd Annual Meeting of the International Bridge Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) in Philadelphia. The meeting draws more than 1,100 attendees from more than 20 countries, making it the largest IBTTA meeting in nearly 10 years.

June 21, 2005

The Philadelphia Cruise Terminal hosts the Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America as she cruises the historic ports of the eastern United States on her maiden voyage.

May 2006

A pilot program is launched to test the new PATCO fare collection system, which uses smart card technology.

May 9, 2006

The DRPA’s Marine Unit launches a 27-foot patrol vessel that will be used in the unit’s work helping the Coast Guard and local law enforcement agencies patrol the waters of the Delaware River. The $200,000 boat was purchased with federal Homeland Security funds.

November 2007

PATCO launches its Transit Ambassador Program, placing uniformed representatives on trains and in stations, concourses and parking lots, primarily in the evening hours.

March 2008

PATCO fully implements the FREEDOM Card fare collection system.

October 31, 2008

PATCO sets a one-day ridership record with more than 112,000 passengers attending the Philadelphia Phillies World Series victory parade.

January 2009

PATCO launches FREEDOM to Save, a program in which Philadelphia and South Jersey businesses offer discounts to FREEDOM Card holders.

2010

The DRPA and PATCO create a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to enlist the participation of customers who use the DRPA bridges or ride PATCO. The 24-member CAC is an independent advisory group with 12 members from Pennsylvania and 12 from New Jersey.

July 15, 2010

The DRPA board approves on a three-year, $140 million project, redecking the Walt Whitman Bridge — the largest capital project in the Authority’s history. The redecking project includes the removal of the suspended span; installation of a new lightweight, concrete-filled jointless grid deck; structure improvements; and new parapets, effectively building a whole new bridge without the cost of new construction. A new movable barrier, used to separate traffic moving in opposite directions, is installed.

December 31, 2010

CruisePhilly and the Philadelphia Cruise Terminal officially close after 12 years of operation. The closure reflects changes in the cruise industry, which increasingly relies on mega-ships (those carrying 4,500-5,000 passengers), which are too large to get under the Delaware Memorial Bridge. The sale of the last liner home-ported in Philadelphia, the Norwegian Cruise Line’s Majesty, in 2008 was a major blow. The closure will save $600,000 in operating costs, $2 million in lease and other costs, and an additional $18 million in future capital improvements.

August 2011

Work begins on the three-year Walt Whitman Bridge redecking project, approved the previous year.

December 2011

The DRPA Board ends the economic development part of the Authority’s mission. Instead, the Authority will emphasize its obligation to maintain the transportation assets under its control.

October 2012

Superstorm Sandy, the second-costliest hurricane in U.S. history, hit the East Coast. All four river bridges are closed during the height of the storm, but the Ben Franklin Bridge is the first major bridge to reopen in its wake.

January 2014

Work begins on a two-year, $103 million project to replace the entire PATCO track infrastructure on the Ben Franklin Bridge. The project will involve replacing six miles of welded rails and 30 miles of signal, power, and communications cable.

Summer 2014

The three-year Walt Whitman Bridge redecking project is completed. The New Jersey Alliance for Action, a nonprofit advocate for infrastructure investment in New Jersey, recognizes the project as a New Jersey Leading Infrastructure Project.

January 2015

PATCO and Verizon announce an agreement to provide WiFi service at all 13 PATCO stations. Service is slated to begin by the summer of 2015.


The DRPA Board approves the sale of the RiverLink ferry for $300,000. The purchase will be a joint venture between the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation and the Cooper’s Ferry Partnership. The ferry began summertime operation between Penns Landing and the Camden waterfront in 1992. The DRPA assumed control in 2000, but has outsourced operation to private operators since 2004.

The DRPA Board revises the Authority’s mission statement, changing it to read “As stewards of public assets, we provide for the safe and efficient operation of transportation services and facilities in a manner that creates value for the public we serve.”