Fares on PATCO trains are set to rise by about 10 percent on Jan. 1, and an increase in bridge tolls to $5 has been pushed back until July. A final decision on the toll and fares was put off until next week. The advisers said the projected toll increases are tied into long-term outlooks by the ratings agencies Standard and Poor's and Moody's. Both are sensitive to DRPA action at the moment, regardless of the economy. Even if the DRPA were to drastically slash its capital budget, it might not be enough to prevent downgraded ratings, they said.
In March, Moody's lowered the DRPA's bond rating from "stable" to "negative" after toll delays. Financial adviser Peter Nissen said that was Moody's "shot across the bow" and that he believed Standard and Poor's could soon do the same. Lowered ratings could force the DRPA to come up with $220 million in collateral and affect its ability to fund projects.
Commissioners remained determined, however, not to saddle taxpayers with more toll and fare increases, even if it meant slashing major capital projects.
"We have to try," said Jeff Nash, vice chairman of the DRPA board. "We're not going to give up. We're going to make it happen."
DRPA commissioners did take steps to end their lease at the Philadelphia Cruise Terminal, which the agency claims will save millions in yearly expenses and planned upgrades.
The DRPA said Urban Outfitters expressed interest in expanding into the building.