Fix the DRPA, But Keep at Least One Promise

You would be hard pressed to find someone who thinks the Delaware River Port Authority has not overstepped its bounds with its “economic development” projects like providing $6 million to build a medical facility at George Norcross’ hospital. And you would also have to use convoluted reasoning to conclude that the appointed DRPA Board reflects the voice of the people.

The main function of the DRPA is to run the bridges and ports in South Jersey. And while their recent toll hikes have drawn the ire of commuters, this unaccountable bi-state agency has branched out to include projects, many worthy of consideration, that have nothing to do with the bridges or ports. In addition to the hospital upgrades for South Jersey’s political boss, some of the projects include dorms for Rutgers-Camden and improvements in a rowing course on the Cooper River.

It’s time for the DRPA to get back to basics. Run the bridges and ports, keep up the infrastructure, and maintain fiscal control on the tolls. Yet, one of these ancillary projects is worth keeping. Back in 2009, the Authority reserved $2 million for the Food Bank of South Jersey, but those funds have never been paid out. In these difficult times, especially for the poor and indigent, we should overlook the “bridges and ports” charter and release those funds. This is not just an inner city issue. The Food Bank also assists low income residents in rural areas of four counties.

Since Governor Christie has turned a blind eye to the poor with his veto pen, I’m OK if the DRPA goes beyond bridges and ports in this instance.

The DRPA is run under a federal charter. I call upon Senators Lautenberg, Menendez, Casey, and Toomey to work with the two state legislatures to reform DRPA. Revise its charter to limit the scope of the agency. Require the members of its board to be confirmed by the respective state senates to help mitigate cronyism. Require the meetings and other activities to be transparent and open. But for the sake of the people of South Jersey, release the funds that were promised to the Food Bank three years ago.

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