Sweeney wants analysis done before any bridge toll hike enacted

Senate President Steve Sweeney urged caution Tuesday after  the Delaware River & Bay Authority’s (DRBA) announcement that it will begin the process of implementing toll increases at the Delaware Memorial Bridge.

“Any proposed toll hike should be carefully scrutinized in a transparent manner, with all facts being laid out on the table,” Sweeney said in a release.  “The DRBA’s plan is no exception.  Therefore, I am calling on the Governor’s Authorities Unit to complete a thorough analysis of this proposal to determine whether the requested increase in bridge tolls is justified and necessary.  Given the Authorities Unit’s previous involvement in DRBA activities, I believe this should be a relatively easy assignment for them to undertake.

“Regardless of the outcome, let me be clear:  I will not support any toll increase that disproportionately harms the commuting public of New Jersey,” he said.  

The Authority has scheduled two hearings into the proposed hikes:

Delaware: On Wednesday, April 27 at 7 p.m., on the main floor of the Vincent A. Julia Center adjacent to the Delaware Memorial Bridge Toll Plaza, conjunction of I-295 and U.S. Route 9 in New Castle.

New Jersey: On Thursday, April 28 at 7 p.m., at the Salem Community College Davidow Performing Arts Theatre located in Davidow Hall, 460 Hollywood Ave., in Carneys Point Township.

The Authority stated that revenue projections are insufficient to provide borrowing capacity or cash to finance necessary infrastructure investment projects. The agency also stated that without an increase, debt coverage will be threatened.

The agency listed some of its capital projects planned at Delaware Memorial Bridge and Cape May – Lewes Ferry during the next several years:  Phase IV of the I-295 Highway Improvements ($29 million); Painting and Structural Improvements on DMB ($28 million); Electronic Toll Collection Upgrades ($10 million); DMB Cable and Suspender Rope Inspection Program ($9 million); DMB Traffic Management System Replacement ($4.3 million); Dock Work and Replacement of Passenger Loader Tubes at the Cape May – Lewes Ferry ($15 million); and Roadway Rehabilitation and Safety Improvements ($5.5 million).

The DRBA owns and operates the Delaware Memorial Bridge, the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, the Three Forts Ferry Crossing and the Salem Business Centre in Carney’s Point.

The DRBA also manages corporate and aviation properties through its economic development powers – two airports in New Jersey (Millville Airport and Cape May Airport) and three in Delaware (New Castle Airport, Civil Air Terminal and Delaware Airpark).

Last month, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the Authority’s actions because he said its capital improvement budget presumed revenue from a toll increase that had not yet been approved. Sweeney wants analysis done before any bridge toll hike enacted