The Delaware River Port Authority, which operates four toll-bridges and the PATCO high speed line, has voted to spend 20 million dollars on non-transportation projects including a cancer institute and a food bank. Those in charge of the DRPA say it’s the end of an era. Chief Executive Officer John Matheussen said he often gets an earful about DRPA spending on economic development.”Often times I get a question about economic development. We know that it’s controversial, we know that it’s provocative, but I look at today as a final chapter moving ahead as opposed to a look back to what we’ve done in the past,” said Matheussen.The DRPA board already decided to end the controversial spending program, but some money remained. Of $30 million earmarked for economic development, the Board chose to spend $20 million. Two million will go to the Food Bank of South Jersey, $6 million to Cooper University Hospital’s cancer center, and $4 million to redevelop the former site of Riverfront State Prison in Camden. In the past, WHYY has received such money.At the meeting, Matheussen defended the spending. “Many of the projects that are in this region are there as a result of support from the DRPA: there are football fields, there are baseball fields, there are concert halls, there are road improvements, things that are not necessarily part of the core mission of the DRPA but have contributed to the overall vitality of the port district,” said Matheussen.Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner was upset. “I could come to this table with a list of hundreds of organizations that I would like to give money to. But that is not the core mission of this authority,” said Wagner. “This authority’s core mission is to run a PATCO system and four bridges.”Vice Chairman of the DRPA Jeffrey Nash said the selected projects are good for the region and will create jobs. “We need to end–close out economic development,” said Nash. “The fundamentally fair way to do it is to allocate the moneys that had been previously approved by this Board. And that is the purpose of this resolution. There is clearly not going to be any further spending on economic development of this Board. It closes a chapter that began in 1992 that continue through this day.”
For the remaining 10 million once marked for economic development the board agreed to spend it on projects related directly to DRPA bridges and PATCO.