The Governor of New Jersey has put the brakes on the toll hike voted on by the Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA) Commission in their December meeting.
Governor Phil Murphy has vetoed the meeting’s minutes. The action effectively overrules the commission’s recommendation to raise the Delaware Memorial Bridge toll from $4 to $5.
In their original notification to the public, the DRBA said that increase was needed for safety improvements for the bridge.
Murphy said the toll increase would fund priorities beyond safety improvements and he was not ready to support any toll increases that extend beyond the bridge’s critical safety enhancements.
The DRBA release the following statement regarding Governor Murphy’s veto:
“New Castle, Del. – Late yesterday afternoon, the DRBA learned that New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy vetoed Resolution 18-49 (Toll Resolution), which established a new toll rate schedule at the Delaware Memorial Bridge (DMB). The new toll rate schedule was expected to generate about $34 million in additional annual revenue that was essential to fund the agency’s $440 million Capital Improvement Program (CIP).
As an organization, we are disappointed by the Governor’s decision to veto the Toll Resolution. The organization is deeply concerned about the harmful impact the lack of additional revenue will have on the DRBA’s CIP at all of its transportation facilities this year and in the years to follow. The Commissioners from both New Jersey and Delaware take their fiduciary responsibilities seriously and believe the toll increase was necessary to fund critical infrastructure while being fiscally prudent and responsive to public input during the public hearing process.
The DMB, which spans the Delaware River and connects two of the most heavily trafficked highway corridors in the Northeast, is the bi-state agency’s critical tolling asset, generating 75% of its operating revenue and 100% of net revenues. All infrastructure projects undertaken by the DRBA are essentially funded by the Bridge. The fact that surplus revenues help support network wide infrastructure is neither new nor novel in the transportation industry.
All public ferry services are subsidized, most often by the State Departments of Transportation. Cape May – Lewes Ferry management is continually looking to increase efficiencies. The Ferry’s fare box recovery is about 60%, better than most public ferry and transit services. The DRBA’s capital investment program in the ferry service is not only necessary but in many cases, required due to U.S. Coast Guard’s stringent requirements related to the service. The Ferry is important to the economic health and vitality to the communities in southern NJ and DE.
The Airports Division of the Authority operates at a positive cash flow. However, additional resources are required to enable the airports to match 90/10 FAA funded grants and new improvements designed to add additional revenues to the airports. The goal always has been to create self-supporting airports for the future benefit of the regions that they serve.
Without the additional revenue that comes with a toll increase, many infrastructure investment projects, including some at the Delaware Memorial Bridge, will be delayed or postponed indefinitely until the resources necessary to fund them are available.
The Authority’s leadership is committed to meeting its fiduciary responsibilities and resolving any misunderstandings with open and honest communications.”
The Delaware River and Bay Authority is a dual state commission made up of Delaware and New Jersey representatives.