’Twas two weeks before Christmas, DRPA up to its old tasks
The commissioners were scurrying, trying to spend leftover cash.
They did a good deed, giving commuters a break,
Delaying a planned toll hike, for everyone’s sake.
 
Of course, the tale doesn’t end there. After all, this is the free-spending Delaware River Port Authority.
 
Citing the sluggish economy, the DRPA this week agreed to postpone a $1 toll increase that was scheduled to take effect in September on the Walt Whitman, Ben Franklin, Betsy Ross, and Commodore Barry bridges.
 
Now, the fare for cars won’t increase to $5 until July 2011.
 
It seems the commissioners finally came to the realization that the country is in a recession, so they put off asking motorists to dig deeper for another bridge toll hike. Merry Christmas!
 
To help offset the revenue loss, the DRPA said it would use $8 million from its economic development fund, the same coffers that the agency previously said it could only tap for dubious pet projects — like the tram across the river that was never built.
 
After shelling out $375 million over the past decade for sports stadiums, museums, and concert venues, the DRPA announced last year that it would stop the practice — when it runs out of money.
 
So, the agency has continued to dole out borrowed cash to projects that have nothing to do with operating and maintaining bridges and trains, nor with developing the ports on the river.
 
The commissioners voted to put up $1.5 million to underwrite the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia for six years, and $500,000 to monitor “environmental remediation” at the Victor Lofts apartment complex in Camden.
 
Fortunately, the spending spree looks like it may finally be coming to a welcome end. But not because the commissioners have finally come to their senses. The fund has only about $15 million remaining from previous borrowing, with nearly half of that earmarked for loan guarantees.
 
Even as it spends this money, the heavily indebted DRPA has increased its budget by 5 percent and plans to borrow another half-billion dollars. With that type of fiscal planning, it’s a good bet that the toll hike is only delayed.