Steep bridge tolls hardly proof of 'mission accomplished' for Corbett

DRPA Ben Franklin Bridge toll

Gov. Corbett ceremoniously excused himself from further service as chairman of the Delaware River Port Authority last week, congratulating himself on yet another job well done. One could almost imagine him wearing a flight suit before a “Mission Accomplished” banner as he took his triumphant leave from the benighted bistate bridge agency.

“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,” Corbett proclaimed grandiosely. “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.”

Corbett and his cacophonous counterpart, Gov. Christie, didn’t create the mess at the DRPA, which has the tolls to show for its years of reckless spending and borrowing. And they have taken steps to clean it up, ending extraneous “economic development” spending (eventually) and insisting on management reforms (at some point). Now that they’re responsible for the agency and tired of blustering, however, they would like us to forget about it.


Would you drive to work if tolls were lower?

But forking over $5 every morning to cross a bridge that cost $3 to cross in 2008 is a powerful cure for amnesia. That’s probably why traffic on DRPA bridges is on pace for a 17-year low — even as it’s rising on the Burlington County Bridge Commission spans that have been charging $2 since the Clinton administration.

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) who has a long memory, too, has asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office to investigate toll hikes by the DRPA and others. Hilariously, John Matheussen, the DRPA’s CEO since 2003 and a living testament to how little the agency has changed, responded by saying he has “a very good story to tell ... about how we increase tolls.”

It had better be good.