The famous painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware would have lacked a good deal of its drama if the Delaware River Port Authority of Pennsylvania and New Jersey (DRPA) had been around in 1776. DRPA keeps commuters (and leaders of revolutionary armies) out of small boats by operating the Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, Commodore Barry, and Walt Whitman toll bridges over the Delaware River, which divides Pennsylvania from New Jersey. Bridge operations account for almost 90% of the agency's revenue. Through its Port Authority Transit Corp. (PATCO) subsidiary, DRPA operates PATCO, a rail service that links Philadelphia with communities on the New Jersey side of the Delaware.
The Benjamin Franklin Bridge, opened in 1926, hosts average weekday traffic of more than 105,000. DRPA's second-oldest bridge, Walt Whitman, opened in 1957, provides crossings for average weekday traffic of more than 108,000. DRPA opened two more bridges during the mid-1970s that carry significantly less traffic than their older counterparts. Commodore Barry, opened in 1974, has average weekday traffic of more than 39,000. Betsy Ross, opened in 1976, provides passage for more than 32,000 on an average weekday. PATCO, launched in 1969, boasts an average weekday ridership of more than 36,000. Since 2000 DRPA has operated the RiverLink Ferry System, which annually transports about 110,000 passengers between Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey.
Mainly because of toll and fare increases, DRPA's revenue grew 8% in 2011 compared with 2010. The Bridge segment increased about 10% over the same period while PATCO was up 8%. From 2002 to 2011 DRPA's revenues rose about 24%.
PATCO is spending about $200 million to overhaul its some 120 rail cars. Another major DRPA project is redecking the suspended span and anchorage spans of the Walt Whitman Bridge for about $140 million. These improvements are part of a larger DRPA $1 billion, five-year capital improvement plan. To gather money for capital improvements, DRPA raised fares by 25% on its toll-bridges and 10% on PATCO in 2011. The increases came after a 2008 bridge toll increase of 33%.
Also in 2011 DRPA ended some major operations. The DRPA board voted to discontinue economic development spending, and DRPA closed the Philadelphia Cruise Terminal at Pier 1, which had been operating in the Philadelphia Navy Yard for more than 10 years. The Philadelphia Cruise Terminal had seen to the departure of 36 cruises in 2006, but only two were scheduled the year the terminal closed.
DRPA was established by the New Jersey and Pennsylvania legislatures in 1919 as the Delaware River Bridge Joint Commission; it became the Delaware River Port Authority by an act of the US Congress in 1951. – less