And the public gets only limited opportunities to address toll increases before they are enacted, because bistate agencies are not subject to state or federal laws on public participation, the report said.
The GAO examined four bistate tolling authorities: the DRPA, which operates four toll bridges between Philadelphia and South Jersey and the PATCO rail line; the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates four toll bridges, two tunnels, and five airports; the Delaware River and Bay Authority, which operates the Delaware Memorial Bridge, two ferries, and five small airports; and the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, which operates seven toll bridges between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
"Providing the public the opportunity to voice its opinion on toll increases is important, and the ideas, preferences and recommendations contributed by the public should be documented and seriously considered by decision-makers," the report said.
"Without a documented process for public involvement, the public lacks a clear view of the bistate authorities' decision-making process, which could undermine the authorities' ability to win the public's support and secure necessary toll revenues," the report said.
The GAO report singled out several instances of limits on accountability at the agencies.
The Joint Toll Bridge Commission, with headquarters in New Hope, in July blocked an attempt by the New Jersey state auditor to audit the agency, contending the auditor has no such authority.
And the inspector general of the DRPA "lacks an assurance of independence," the report said.
The inspector general, Thomas W. Raftery III, has been embroiled in a long struggle with the DRPA board to establish standard operating procedures for his office, and Raftery has complained that board members and DRPA officials have tried to restrict his authority.
"The DRPA established its inspector general in response to congressional concerns, and has the opportunity to more fully address those concerns by assuring the independence of its inspector general by establishing clear authorities for it to perform its work," the GAO said.
The DRPA and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey refused to let GAO investigators meet privately with the agencies' inspectors general.
And the report noted that the DRPA remains under investigation by a federal grand jury led by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia, which is looking into its economic-development spending.
The report is available at www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-687
Contact Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or email@example.com