The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, composed of 10 commissioners, with five from each state, maintains and operates seven toll bridges and 13 free bridges connecting New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Making changes to how the commission is run is a complex process because the agency is set up by a federal charter, identical legislation must be enacted in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and approved by the federal government.
One provision in the renewed bill would require an annual financial and management audit of the commission by Pennsylvania’s auditor general and his New Jersey counterpart.
Rep. Joe Emrick, R-Nazareth, says there is a genuine need for greater state oversight of the agency as he shepards his bill through the State House. “Historically, the Commission has been a bastion of political patronage, and many of its financial and management decisions have been questionable at best,” Emrick wrote in a memo on his bill.
Emrick has referred to a fare increase from eight years ago that did not give commuters or businesses an opportunity to voice concerns about the toll increase.
At the time, agency officials said the rate hikes were necessary to keep up with capital improvements. An agency news release noted that higher truck fees reflected the “greater wear and tear trucks cause” on roads and bridges.
Emrick said the gubernatorial authority in Pennsylvania could have derailed the rate hike that charged large trucks 75 cents more per axle – to $4 from $3.25 per axle. Tolls for two-axle passenger vehicles increased 25 cents – to $1 from 75 cents.
“Taxpayers deserve better, including a thorough and more frequent audit of the commission’s books so they have a better handle on how their money is being spent,” Emrick stated.
The bill awaits consideration in the Senate Transportation Committee.