Stuck among maintaining their four bridges, helping out struggling taxpayers or appeasing Wall Street, the Delaware River Port Authority couldn't get out of its quagmire yet again yesterday.
The bistate agency will try again next week to decide whether to delay $1 toll hikes on the bridges they operate and a 10 percent fare increase on the PATCO commuter line.
While nearly everyone on the board of commissioners appears eager to delay the increases in light of the economy, they continue to hear warnings from their financial advisers about the consequences.
Advisers told the commissioners yesterday, as they did last week, that Wall Street bond-rating agencies probably wouldn't react well to a further delay in the toll hike because the agency has more than $1 billion planned in capital projects over the next five years.
"In our view, the consumers can't afford it," board Vice Chairman Jeff Nash said of the toll increases after the four-hour meeting.
Nash and other board members want the increases delayed until 2012.
If the DRPA's bond ratings were slashed, as they were earlier in the year, it could result in cascading disasters, including the immediate payment of hundreds of millions in collateral, increased interest rates and the inability to issue future bonds. The $5 toll that commissioners were trying to avoid could morph into a $7 toll just to stay afloat, one adviser said.
Pennsylvania Commissioner John Dougherty suggested that the DRPA consider privatizing or selling the PATCO line, which runs at a deficit from Philadelphia to South Jersey.