New Jersey Republicans last week filed a resolution to repeal recent bridge-toll increases by the Delaware River Port Authority and a 10% fare hike on its PATCO mass-transit system.

The increases began on Sept. 14 to help support bridge upgrades and an expansion of the PATCO system, among other infrastructure needs, within a five-year, $1.1 billion capital plan.

Sen. Diane Allen, R-Burlington, sponsor of the legislation, believes the DRPA needs to scale back and reassess how the authority can cut operating costs before asking motorists and commuters to pay more to use the bridges and the mass-transit system. Along with Allen, 16 other Republican lawmakers are co-sponsors on the legislation.

“New Jersey middle-class families are struggling financially to make ends meet and should not be forced to bear this onerous toll increase,” Allen said in a prepared statement. “Rather than increasing tolls, the DRPA should examine salaries, staffing, and scrutinize expenditures.”

Bridge tolls are now $4 on the Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman, Commodore Barry, and Betsy Ross bridges. In addition, the authority plans to raise that fee again in September 2010 to $5 and begin cost-of-living increases every two years thereafter.

PATCO fares will also increase again by 10% in September 2010. Like the bridge-toll hikes, PATCO fares will increase every two years after 2010 based on cost of living increases.

A one-way trip on PATCO’s entire rail line increased by 25 cents to $2.70 on Sept. 14. That amount will grow to $3 in 2010, a 30-cent boost.

The authority last increased bridge tolls in 2000 and its most recent PATCO fare hike was a 16% increase in 2001. The PATCO line connects southwestern New Jersey to downtown Philadelphia.

The DRPA has roughly $808 million of outstanding senior revenue bonds, which Standard & Poor’s rates BBB-plus with a positive outlook. Moody’s Investors Service rates the credit A3 with a stable outlook.

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