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DRPA Announces Public Hearings On Bridge Tolls And PATCO Fares
The Delaware River Port Authority has announced two public hearings have been scheduled for comment on proposed changes to the Bridge Toll and PATCO Fare Schedules.
The hearings will be held from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on the following dates and at the following locations:
Tuesday, July 22nd
Rutgers University - Camden
Campus Center, Main Lounge
326 Penn Street
Camden, NJ 08102
Wednesday, July 23rd
Philadelphia Cruise Terminal
Philadelphia Navy Yard
5100 South Broad Street, Building #3
Philadelphia, PA 19112.
Both hearings will deal with increases in both PATCO fares and bridge tolls.
DRPA CEO and PATCO President, John J. Matheussen, says “the Authority faces over one-billion dollars in capital improvements over the next five years and additional funding is needed to pay for those projects.” Matheussen stressed “the goal is to provide the best possible service to those who cross our bridges or ride PATCO and continuing to make all our facilities safe, secure and serviceable.”
Some of the capital improvement projects on the drawing board include $115-million to redeck the Walt Whitman Bridge, $45-million for deleading and corrosion protection at the Whitman, $23-million for the final phase of the Ben Franklin Bridge steel painting and corrosion protection project, $23-million for pier improvements at the Commodore Barry Bridge, $42-million for security improvements and $3.5-million for an express E-ZPass project at the Commodore Barry and Betsy Ross Bridges. In addition, PATCO will undergo a $180-million rehabilitation of its entire fleet as well as $28-million to rehabilitate the tracks on viaducts and the Ben Franklin Bridge.
DRPA Chief Financial Officer, John Hanson, points out “the Authority has worked hard to hold the line on spending.” Hanson adds “prudent decisions need to be made now to insure the Authority’s financial position remains strong.”
Some of the cost saving measures enacted by the Authority dating back to 2004 include a restructured health care program resulting in a nearly $3-million initial cost reduction. There has been a reduction of some 124 staff positions. As a result of these and other cost containment measures, budgeted operating expenses from 2004 thru 2007 increased by only $418,000 which amounts to an increase of less than four-tenths of one-percent.
Because of the financial constraints facing the Authority, the following changes in Bridge Toll and PATCO fare schedules are being proposed to take effect Sunday, September 14th.
1. A $1.00 increase September 2008, another $1.00 increase September 2010 and cost of living increases every two years after that. There will be proportional increases for all other toll classes.
2. A phase out of the commuter discount. The credit for 18 crossings a month on the same transponder will be reduced to $12 September 2008, reduced to $6.00 in September 2009 and the discount would end September 2010.
3. The Senior Citizen discount would remain with a few changes. The Senior discount will now be directly linked to an E-ZPass account and will only be accepted during off-peak hours. The peak hours when the discount will be invalid are from 6-9am and 4-7pm Monday thru Friday. The Senior Discount will be 50% of the normal toll and is limited to one crossing a day. THE DELAWARE RIVER PORT AUTHORITY REMAINS THE ONLY TOLL AGENCY IN THE COUNTRY WITH A SENIOR DISCOUNT.
4.The current commercial discount will be eliminated.
5.CREATION OF A NEW GREEN PASS DISCOUNT. This new $1.00 discount will be offered to E-ZPass customers driving low emission vehicles that get at least 45 miles to the gallon. The vehicles must meet the California Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle or pre-model year 2005 hybrid vehicle certified to the California Ultra Low Emission Vehicle Standard. This discount is scheduled to sunset after two years.
1. A 10% increase September 2008, another 10% increase September 2010 with cost of living increases every two years after that.
2. The federally mandated reduced fare program for seniors and disabled which is now 57 cents would increase to 62 cents September 2008 and then 70 cents September 2010.
3. PATCO fares vary depending on the length of the trip however looking at the person who travels from Lindenwold, Ashland or Woodcrest, to Center City Philadelphia the cost of a one-way ticket would increase 25 cents from $2.45 to $2.70 September 2008. In September 2010, the cost would increase 30 cents from $2.70 to $3.00.
The last general toll hike was on 1/2/2000 when the toll went from $2.00 to $3.00 although the 10% E-ZPass discount for occasional users was eliminated on 1/1/2004. PATCO fares have been stable since 7/29/2001 when they were increased 16 percent.
Following the public hearings DRPA Commissioners will review all of the public’s comments before making a final decision on adjusting bridge tolls or PATCO fares.
Those who are unable to attend a public hearing may submit their comments in writing or via email. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Written comments may be sent to the Delaware River Port Authority, Corporate Communications, PO Box 1949, Camden, NJ 08101. The public record will remain open until 12 noon on July 25th, 2008.
The Delaware River Port Authority is a regional transportation agency. DRPA owns and operates the Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman, Commodore Barry and Betsy Ross Bridges, and PATCO, the Philadelphia Cruise Terminal and the RiverLink Ferry.
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