The bad economy means good news for PATCO High-Speed Line commuters, who will be spared a fare increase in 2010.
The board of the Delaware River Port Authority, which operates the PATCO line between Philadelphia and South Jersey, voted unanimously yesterday to put off a 10 percent hike planned for September.
"People are struggling to get to work, and this is a small part of what we can do to help communities," said Jeffrey Nash, vice chairman of the DRPA board.
The fare increase will be implemented in January 2011, the board said, to help pay for capital improvements to PATCO stations and trains. Earlier this month, the board had voted to postpone a $1 toll increase on its four Delaware River bridges until July 2011, but it had said the PATCO increase would remain in place.
The DRPA's largesse took another form yesterday as the board doled out the last of the money in the agency's controversial economic development fund, which had been amassed through bridge tolls.
The board allocated $9 million to transit-oriented redevelopment projects in downtown Camden in and around the Walter Rand Transportation Center and $2 million to the Food Bank of South Jersey.
Gov. Corzine requested the food-bank funding, Nash said.
In other spending, $11.2 million remaining in New Jersey's portion of a never-used dredging account was allocated for four projects:
$4 million to dredge and improve the Cooper River, a tributary of the Delaware, so it can continue to be used for regatta events that are a tourism draw in South Jersey.
$3 million for improvements at Pyne Poynt Park in North Camden, a community targeted for redevelopment after the demolition of Riverfront State Prison, which the DRPA is funding.
$2 million to rebuild a failing dam in Gloucester County.
About $2 million for various DRPA "greening" initiatives.
In a separate move, the DRPA approved a $700,000 grant toward a new $1.1 million recreational complex in Pennsauken Township, one of the DRPA's "host" communities.
The board also agreed, at the behest of board member Jack Wagner, the Pennsylvania auditor general and a gubernatorial candidate, to ban the future use of a complicated borrowing method known as swap agreements. The board also directed DRPA staff to explore terminating current swap agreements.
Wagner called such borrowing practices "gambling with public money."
Interest-rate swaps made in 2000 and 2001 provided the DRPA with $45 million, but resulted in $242 million in liabilities that are coming due.