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DRPA May Postpone Toll Hikes Despite Wall St. Warnings

CAMDEN, NJ (CBS) -- Financial analysts hired by the Delaware River Port Authority are warning of potentially dire consequences from the financial community if bridge toll and PATCO fare increases are put off. But it appears the board is ready to go in that direction anyway.

Bondholders could, according to the analysts, call in $220 million worth of DRPA capital debt if ratings are lowered by Moody's and Standard & Poors. And the experts suggested there is a 50-50 chance that could happen if the hikes don't come on schedule.

Financial analyst Kim Whelan:

"When you issued your original bonds, it's over a 29-year period we anticipated revenue over that period of time."

DRPA vice chair Jeffrey Nash concedes the possibility of bond rating problems but thinks there are more important factors.

"We must do everything in our power to see if we can postpone this toll increase, because the people out there need it and that's who we owe, first and foremost, our obligation to," Nash told the board on Wednesday.

Now, the DRPA staff has exactly one week to find cuts in capital and operating budgets to make a postponement work, although option two could be a reduction in the planned increase.

Patco fares are due to go up about 10 percent on January 1st, with tolls on the four DRPA bridges set to go up from $4.00 to $5.00 in July.

Reported by David Madden, KYW Newsradio 1060.

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