A toll rate hike recently implemented on seven toll bridges connecting New Jersey and Pennsylvania has prompted action by Rep. Joe Emrick, R-Northampton, PA. Emrick has proposed three bills to prevent future toll increases and give Pennsylvania more oversight over the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission (DRJTBC), according to a report in Land Line magazine.
DRJTBC enacted a new toll rate structure on July 1 whereby large trucks are paying 75 cents more per axle – $4, up from $3.25 per axle. Tolls for passenger vehicles are up 25 cents – to $1 from 75 cents. Discounted E-ZPass rates remain available for truckers and other users that travel during off-peak periods.
Emrick say toll increases are actually taxes on users, especially truckers who will have to pass the cost increase onto customers and ultimately to consumers. “Businesses that use the bridges regularly will pass the ‘tax’ along to their customers and consumers, who will be hit again. There has to be a better way,” he stated.
One bill in the package requires an annual financial and management audit of the DRJTBC by Pennsylvania’s auditor general and his New Jersey counterpart. The other bills would allow for gubernatorial veto of actions by the Pennsylvania members of the commission. New Jersey law already includes the veto authority.
“There is a need for greater oversight of the commission, and my bill allows the commission to be appropriately audited after many years of no auditing taking place,” Emrick said in a statement.
DRJTBC officials said the rate hikes are necessary to keep up with capital improvements. An agency press release says that higher truck fees reflect the “greater wear and tear trucks cause” on roads and bridges.