PA Gov Corbett turns over chairmanship of DRPA, says crony capitalist handouts ended

August 1, 2012

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett announced today he's stepping down as chair of the board of commissioners of the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA,) the bistate toll authority that runs four toll bridges over the Delaware River between Philadelphia and southern New Jersey.

The announcement says: "During his (Gov Corbett's) tenure, the DRPA has ended the controversial policy of issuing bonds to fund economic development projects unrelated to transportation, reduced its aggregate debt to just over $1.2 billion from a high of about $1.45 billion, moved forward on the Walt Whitman Bridge redecking and PATCO passenger car renovation projects, decreased the authority's 2012 debt service by approximately $2.5 million per month, increased its operational liquidity, created the DRPA Office of the Inspector General to fight waste and abuse, completed its first reverse auction for electricity at an estimated annual savings of about $1.3 million and kept spending in check by submitting nearly flat annual operating budgets for two years in a row."

Gov. Corbett appointed himself to the board and was subsequently elected chairman in March 2011.

Corbett is quoted as saying: "When I joined the Board of Commissioners last year, I said I would remain only as long as it took to return the authority to its core mission:  Providing safe, reliable, customer friendly transportation to the people of southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.  I believe the board is reliably committed to that mission, and the time has come for me to leave it in the board's care."

Simon to be new chair

The governor is naming Andrew J Reilly of Middletown Township, PA to succeed him on the board.  He will recommend that at its next meeting on August 15, the board elect sitting Commissioner David F Simon of Gwynedd Valley, PA as chairman.

Simon, 59, is chief legal officer for Jefferson Health System in Radnor PA.  He's been on the DRPA board and its finance and audit committees since March 2011.

Simon chaired incoming Gov Corbett's transition teams for the Department of Insurance and the Department of Public Welfare in 2010. He also had positions in Gov Tom Ridge's Administration.

He is quoted: "As chairman, Gov Corbett has given the DRPA every tool it needs to become one of the most efficient, customer-focused and respected transportation agencies in the country. I intend to put those tools to work. We will continue to focus our mission on transportation.  We will continue to strengthen management controls and pursue management efficiencies.  Most importantly, we will add value on our customers' terms, not our own."

Reilly, 49, is from the law firm of Swartz Campbell in Media PA., and is a former chairman of the Delaware County Council and the sitting chairman of the Republican Committee of Delaware County.

BACKGROUND: The last financial year for which there is a financial report (2010) show the "Port Authority" made revenue of $0.3m (0.1%) from the "Port" to which it owes its name - actually a cruise ship berth - and $243.9m (80%) from tolls and $22m (7.2%) from rail transit fares.

Tolls/traffic reported were:

-  Walt Whitman Bridge $95.2m, 19.6m

- Ben Franklin Bridge $80.1m, 18.5m

- Betsy Ross Bridge $30.6m, 5.8m

- Commodore Barry Bridge $38.0m, 6.6m

("Traffic" is number of tolls collected, and about half of real traffic since tolls are only payable in one direction.)

Traffic has been in decline at the bridges since the peak of 55.1m in 2007. In 2010 was 50.4m or 8.5% off.

TOLLROADSnews 2012-08-01

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