N.J. to Philly tolls going up

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) - August 20, 2008

The Delaware River Port Authority on Wednesday voted to increase tolls on its four bridges to $4 from $3 effective Sept. 14. The rates will rise to $5 in 2010, then go up by the inflation rate every other year after that.

PATCO Speedline train fares will also rise 10 percent next month and another 10 percent in two years, with automatic hikes after that.

The tolls have not risen since 2000 and the train fares had been steady since 2001.

The DRPA says it needs more money to pay for transportation maintenance and improvements. For example, the Ben Franklin bridge was built in 1926.

"These bridges need continued attention, PATCO needs continued attention." said John Matheussen of the DRPA.

The board promises none of its new money will go to economic development, a controversial issue. The DRPA gave away more than $300 million to sports stadiums and other non transportation projects. It has 35 million left in that fund.

AAA Mid Atlantic today asked the board to, in a show of good faith, use that money to offset the new toll hikes. The DRPA says the 35 million is staying put, saying some of it may be needed for projects it has already committed to, including the unfinished Camden-Philadelphia tramline.

As one concession to angry commuters, the agency agreed to smaller cuts than planned for a senior citizen discount. Other commuters will see their discount phased out entirely.

The DRPA says it's $1 billion in debt, and will need to borrow another $1 billion in the next few years to keep it's bridges safe.

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