Senator Bashes Double-Standard for Port Authority Reform Legislation
Senate Transportation Committeeman Joe Pennacchio said the New Jersey Legislature must stop neglecting its responsibility to serve all residents and start passing legislation to ensure accountable and transparent port authorities at both ends of the state.
The Delaware River Port Authority is in charge of four bridges connecting South Jersey and Pennsylvania, as well as the PATCO regional railway with stations such as Ferry Avenue, pictured. (George100/Wikimedia Commons)
“The escalating turmoil and troubles at the Delaware River Port Authority clearly show the need for New Jersey’s Senate to join Pennsylvania’s in unanimously passing bipartisan-supported reform bill S-2013,” Pennacchio said. “It’s mind boggling that we could come together here in New Jersey to unanimously pass needed reforms for the similarly troubled Port Authority of New York and New Jersey yet completely fail to act on legislation to bring the same level of accountability and trust to the DRPA.”
The Pennsylvania Senate approved an identical version of Senator Pennacchio’s legislation, S-2013, by a vote of 50-0 on Wednesday.
On Monday, the DRPA’s first inspector general hired to root out fraud and corruption at the troubled agency resigned, citing interference from board members. In a letter of resignation, the inspector general stated, “the independence of the IG and the [office of the inspector general] has been challenged and efforts undertaken to limit, if not eliminate, that independence,” according to a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“The inspector general’s resignation is especially troubling, as DRPA officials pretend that nothing needs to be done to prevent mismanagement of transit resources, waste, fraud and abuse,” Pennacchio said. “The resignation further illustrates internal chaos at the DRPA and that the agency simply cannot police itself, as the very person hired to reform the agency has been squelched by the board. It’s clear, just as my colleagues stated in passing the reforms for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, we need to pass reform legislation holding the DRPA eternally transparent and accountable, so commuters and taxpayers can have assurance that past mistakes and waste won’t be repeated.”
Leaders at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey meanwhile have embraced reforms both internally and from the legislature. Chairman John Degnan has pledged the authority will “do whatever the legislatures tell us we need to do…” according to a report by Politicker NJ.
“The events of the past days show the DRPA and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are moving in opposite directions,” Pennacchio said.
In April, Assistant Senate Republican Leader and Transportation Committeeman Pennacchio joined counterparts in Pennsylvania’s legislature to introduce DRPA reform bill S-2013.