Toll increases on Delaware River bridges are likely to be in place by the fall, a top official said yesterday.

Tolls, now $3 for autos, could rise as much as $2. An alternative would be for the Delaware River Port Authority to increase tolls by less than $2 and implement annual hikes tied to inflation.

Public hearings on prospective toll hikes will be held after an ongoing traffic study is completed, port authority chief executive John Matheussen said. The traffic study will take 30 to 45 days, and public hearings and board approval make October a "reasonable" estimate for implementation of the higher tolls, he said. Higher tolls are needed to pay for bridge maintenance and upgrades of rail cars for the PATCO commuter rail line, the DRPA says.

- Paul Nussbaum