The Delaware River Port Authority plans to take $3.7 million from the remnants of its controversial economic-development bankroll to help pay for repairs to the Ben Franklin Bridge.
A DRPA board committee approved the fund transfer Wednesday, and the full board is expected to authorize the shift this month.
The DRPA has about $22.7 million left in its economic-development pot from projects approved years ago. Some projects continue to receive DRPA payments, and some have been dormant for years.
Over the last 16 years, the DRPA borrowed and spent nearly $500 million for such economic-development projects as stadiums, museums, and concert halls.
In December 2011, the DRPA board approved $20 million for a final flurry of projects and proclaimed the end of the economic-development era. No more money would go to such projects, the board said, although some continues to be spent on previously approved projects.
Wednesday's action, if approved by the full board, will shift $4.2 million from the economic-development pot.
About $3.7 million will be used for the ongoing $103 million repair of the Ben Franklin Bridge. And $500,000 will be put in a reserve fund to pay for legal, engineering, environmental and other costs associated with ending the DRPA's role in various projects.
In other action Wednesday, DRPA officials said they continue to study resurrecting two artifacts from the past: Commuter discounts for frequent travelers on the agency's four toll bridges, and the long-closed Franklin Square station on the PATCO commuter rail line.
Bridge traffic and PATCO ridership studies are being done to evaluate the costs and benefits of the proposed moves.
Jeffrey L. Nash, the Camden County freeholder who is vice chairman of the DRPA, urged staff to complete studies in time to restore commuter discounts by the beginning of next year.
The DRPA ended commuter discounts in 2010, after gradually reducing what had once been an $18-per-month break for motorists who made at least 18 trips a month across a bridge.
Auto tolls are now $5 for every westbound trip across the Ben Franklin, Walt Whitman, Betsy Ross, and Commodore Barry bridges.
PATCO's Franklin Square station, beneath Sixth and Race Streets, opened in 1936, was used sporadically, and has been closed since 1979. PATCO riders can glimpse its shadowy platforms and green-and-white tiled walls on their way to and from New Jersey.
The DRPA has been talking about reopening it since 2009, but has balked at spending the millions that would be required to upgrade and reopen the station.
DRPA officials, using $12,500 approved last week by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, have hired a consulting firm to update its last two studies on the costs and benefits of reopening the station. The study will examine population growth in Old City and Northern Liberties, and ridership estimates.