As you may know, the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of four bridges crossing the Delaware River between Pennsylvania and New Jersey and the PATCO commuter rail line between South Jersey and Philadelphia. This $325-million-a year bi-state agency is funded by the tolls that commuters pay to cross the bridges. The DRPA has come under increasing scrutiny over recent years for its unacceptable practices, including its patronage hiring, lack of transparency, lavish perks, excessive spending and debt, and burdensome toll increases.
To enact comprehensive reforms at DRPA, I have been working for several sessions with New Jersey legislators and staff, Senator Rafferty’s office, and House and Senate staff to develop legislation that will amend the interstate compact between Pennsylvania and New Jersey which governs DRPA. To amend this compact, both states must adopt the reforms, and the compact must then be approved by Congress.
I am currently preparing to introduce this legislation, which will make DRPA more transparent and open to the public by:
- Prohibiting the ability of DRPA to engage in economic development activity.
- Adopting an open records policy.
- Providing 30 days public notice prior to any vote concerning a contract.
- Prohibiting DRPA from negotiating, extending, amending or otherwise altering the terms of a contract, or entering into a contract, unless the action is taken by the DRPA board at a public meeting.
- Requiring biennial budget audits, biennial performance audits and a biennial review of compensation for all DRPA employees.
- Prohibiting DRPA management from receiving their salaries until audits are complete.
- Requiring board members to file financial interest statements and identify any potential conflicts of interest in writing in advance of board meetings.
- Requiring current and prospective vendors to disclose a list of political contributions annually and for the prior four years.
- Requiring a two-thirds majority of commissioners for toll increases.
- Prohibiting charitable contributions by board members and officers on behalf of DRPA.
- Prohibiting DRPA officers and employees (at the director level and higher) from being employed by an entity that does business with DRPA for two years after the individual leaves DRPA service.
- Prohibiting officers and employees at the director level or higher to hold outside employment during their tenure at DRPA.
- Prohibiting political activity using DRPA time or resources.
- Requiring the use of best practices in procurement and the acceptance of bid proposals online.
- Prohibiting any transaction or professional activity and engaging in any outside business that presents a conflict of interest with DRPA duties.
My bill will also limit DRPA board member, officer and employee “perks” by:
- Prohibiting vehicle allowances, toll exemptions, and lump sum expense allowances (an exception is provided for persons operating under a collective bargaining agreement which provides for toll exemptions).
- Prohibiting any personal lines of credit from DRPA.
- Prohibiting the acceptance of any gifts that could affect the conduct of DRPA business.
- Prohibiting the hiring of immediate family members of current commissioners, officers, directors or employees.
- Prohibiting salaries to be higher than those of the Governors of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
In addition, my proposal will require Senate confirmation for each of the Governor’s six appointees to the DRPA board, providing for legislative involvement in the appointment process.
Finally, a Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO) Commuter Council will be created to study, investigate, monitor and make recommendations pertaining to the maintenance and operation of PATCO’s facilities for the transportation of passengers.
Please join me in cosponsoring this legislation.