NJTV News

Delaware River Port Authority discusses agenda for 2018

As the year comes to a close, the Delaware River Port Authority took it as an opportunity to look ahead. Before the page was turned on 2017, an announcement was made about New Year’s Eve — between roughly 8 p.m. and 4 a.m. you’ll be able to ride on PATCO for free.

“So we can prevent people drinking and driving and be a great partner and a great citizen to people in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the state of New Jersey,” said Ryan Boyer, chairman of the Delaware River Port Authority.

Among the DRPA and PATCO capital projects on the agenda for 2018 is installing elevators at the remaining stations without them. The first on the list is the Collingswood Station.

Then, there’s a project to repaint the Walt Whitman Bridge with protective coating and another project to refurbish PATCO cars.

“The plan is to keep our assets at the premium levels so that we have the proper repair of our tracks and maintenance,” said Boyer.

There’s also a plan to reopen the Franklin Square station in Philadelphia, which has been closed since the 1970s.

“It was closed in the 70s due to lack of ridership. It’s being re-opened in response to the tremendous economic growth in the Philadelphia metropolitan region, which includes southern New Jersey and Philadelphia,” said John Hanson, DRPA’s CEO.

“It’s at the base of the Ben Franklin Bridge, but it opens up immense possibilities of people from Northern Liberties to be able to come to New Jersey and people from New Jersey to see Northern Liberties. It’s a great, new, revitalized, artsy neighborhood,” said Boyer.

All these projects may have you seeing dollar signs, but these officials say tolls and fares will not be increased in 2018 and they’re committing to no bridge toll increases until at least 2020. So how is that possible?

“By carefully managing expenses, we have been able to, and with the bump in the economy recently, we’ve been able to build the general fund from under $100 million back in 2005 to in excess of $600 million right now. There’s no secret, keeping budgets under two percent every year, keeping operating budget growth under two percent, eliminating capital projects that weren’t key to our mission,” said Hanson.

“We have sufficient revenues to cover our capital expenditures without putting out any new debt,” said Boyer.

With roughly 19,000 people who ride PATCO trains everyday, the core mission is to connect New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Officials also say they’re going to extend the bicycle and walkway ramp along Ben Franklin Bridge.