RENAME D.R.P.A.! Change ‘Port’ To ‘Bridge’

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BY JOE SHAHEELI/ It’s time for the Delaware River Port Authority to change its name to more-correctly identify its primary mission, which is to oversee the bridges under its mandate.

Correctly renaming itself as the Delaware River Bridge Authority would clarify its mission to the public as well as Avoid continued confusion among the citizenry as TO its true role in port activities.

Real control of the Port of Philadelphia can be seen in the activities of the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, legislated into existence by the Pennsylvania General Assembly. That agency owns many of the industrial and commercial piers, the buildings and warehouses on those piers, and much of the ground adjacent to the Port’s active and dormant piers.

PRPA has invested millions in the refurbishing of those terminals, as well as in constructing more-modern facilities. These include state-of-the-art cranes designed to shorten turnaround time for ships unloading and loading at its busy piers.

In turn, the PRPA is landlord to a host of terminal operators as well as those conducting port affiliated businesses.

The New Jersey side of the Delaware has several quasi-governmental agencies, none of which are similar in their operation to PRPA, which owns its piers and terminals.

If it were not for PRPA and the push of Gov. Ed Rendell, Sen. Arlen Specter, Congressman Bob Brady and State Rep. Bill Keller, as well as the International Longshoremen Association union and Port terminal operators, dredging would not have been approved.

The essential need to deepen the Delaware River channel from 40 to 45 feet is now underway. This effort is already spawning additional shipping interests who, without the dredging, could not send their ships to the Port of Philadelphia. Another boon to the Port of Philadelphia is the recently announced acquisition by PRPA to a portion of the old Naval Base which will become a major terminal for international shippers known as “Southport”.

Opposing the dredging were North Jersey politicians who saw the Philadelphia Port as major competition to their ports as well as those of New York, both of which are now deepening their channels to 50 feet, and have, in many areas, completed that goal.

Unwittingly, State Sen. Larry Farnese, whose District covers some of the Port, recently urged the joining of the political entities responsible for the Port of Philadelphia and Camden, N.J. be merged. In effect, such an action would give veto control to the New Jersey politicians, through their Governor, over actions such as those which made dredging a reality.

In 1988, Govs. Christie Whitman and Bob Casey toyed with the idea of creating one overall supervising agency supported by funding from both States. However, further study made them understand each State would be at the mercy of the other, both Governors realizing they would not have any say in Port development without the approval of the other. DRPA is such an example.

Pennsylvania has sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into the development and, most recently, in the soon-to-be-opened the world’s largest Food Distribution Center, on Essington Avenue. This will bring additional shippers to the Port of Philadelphia. In comparison, the Port of Camden or New Jersey has seen little financial involvement by its Governors or its legislative body.

There are privately owned terminals on the Camden side, who will continue to do business as they see fit, whether their activity serves as a detriment or a boon to the other terminal operators. This is not the case on the Philadelphia side of the Delaware.

Such an agreement would have hobbled the future growth now anticipated by the Port, which has begun to show a growth in new shipping lines signing up with PRPA to use its facilities. Camden gains as a result.

The similarity of Authority names is not similar to their mission statements, which may explain why Farnese thought to support a merger of both States.

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