DRPA installs new leadership

New CEO John Hanson, above, and new chair, Pa. Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley
New CEO John Hanson, above, and new chair, Pa. Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley
Posted: March 21, 2014

John Hanson, the new chief executive of the Delaware River Port Authority, said Wednesday he will try to improve service for the agency's customers - the motorists who use its toll bridges and rail commuters who travel on PATCO trains.

"I want to emphasize our stewardship role," said Hanson, the former DRPA chief financial officer who was selected Wednesday as permanent CEO. He had been acting CEO since January. "We hold the bridges in trust for the public."

The DRPA's newly installed chairman of the board, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, also said his focus would be on "affordable and excellent transportation."

Cawley was elected chairman Wednesday, replacing Jefferson Health System executive David Simon, who resigned.

Hanson, 53, a certified public accountant from Cherry Hill, is a former DRPA board member and a former chairman of the Camden County Republican Party. He had been the DRPA's chief financial officer since 2004, and had been acting CEO since John Matheussen resigned in January, when he was appointed to the state Superior Court by Gov. Christie.

Hanson will not get a raise with his promotion: His annual salary will remain at $180,081. Matheussen had received $219,474 a year.

In another significant management move, the DRPA hired a veteran Amtrak and private railroad manager as assistant general manager of the troubled PATCO commuter rail line.

Bennett M. Cornelius, of Kennett Square, will fill a post vacant since the retirement of Cheryl Spicer last April. He will be paid $140,000 a year.

Cornelius, who began his railroad career in 1976 as an Amtrak train attendant, was a manager in Philadelphia, New York, and Washington during his 30 years with Amtrak.

From 2009 to 2013, he was senior operations manager for Keolis Rail Services, a French company that runs the Virginia Railway Express commuter service in northern Virginia and Washington.

Cornelius arrives at PATCO during a tumultuous period.

Train service has been hit with delays and overcrowding because of a $103 million, two-year rail reconstruction project on the Ben Franklin Bridge, and PATCO has fallen behind in overhauling its 120-car fleet in a $194 million rehabilitation project.

PATCO customers also have been angered by a series of escalator and elevator failures after a maintenance contract was allowed to lapse in July.

PATCO ridership was down 9 percent in January, compared with the same month in 2013, and revenue was down 8 percent, as construction delays and bad weather affected service.

Similar declines were expected for February, financial officer James White told the board.

In other business Wednesday, the DRPA board aborted plans to approve a new operator for the seasonal RiverLink ferry that runs between Philadelphia and Camden.

The board had planned to approve a $600,000-a-year contract with Patriot Harbor Lines, of Wilmington, to run the ferry but withdrew the proposal from its Wednesday agenda to continue the search for an operator.




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