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DRPA Board Postpones Decision On Bridge And PATCO Hikes

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(The DRPA Board.  File photo by KYW's John Ostapkovich)

(The DRPA Board. File photo by KYW’s John Ostapkovich)

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CAMDEN, NJ (CBS) – Commuters hoping for a break on pending toll hikes and PATCO fare increases will just have to wait a while longer for an answer.

Delaware River Port Authority board members, faced with dire potential consequences from Wall Street if they delayed the increases (see previous story), decided on Wednesday to put off their decision.

It’s not like they’re not trying. Commissioners are floating a number of possibilities to hold off on taking bridge tolls from $4.00 to $5.00, and making it 10 percent more expensive to ride PATCO.

But every suggestion evokes the same answer from the DRPA’s outside financial analysts, trying to guess what bond rating agencies might do.

Analyst Kim Whelan: “You’ve already deferred the tolls. You had three other deferrals, and (the bond market is) saying, for lack of a better word, ‘The boat has sailed.’”

Change anything from the current plan for fare and toll hikes, Whelan says, and those ratings will almost certainly go down, threatening a domino effect that could preclude the DRPA from getting bonds to complete a billion-dollar, five-year capital plan — and maybe put the agency itself in financial distress.

Still, the board may try to put off the PATCO hike until July, when the tolls are set to go up.

Reported by David Madden, KYW Newsradio 1060.

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