"Recent toll hikes on some bridges have raised questions about whether transportation authorities are remaining accountable to their congressionally approved compact," said Ned Griffith, a GAO spokesman, according to the New Jersey Record.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Delaware River Port Authority and the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission have all received requests for information from the GAO.
In April, several New Jersey Congressmen asked the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to delay a second round of toll hikes scheduled for December until the agency can prove it has its finances in order. Last August, the agency approved raising bridge and tunnel tolls that will mean an extra $50 per five-axle truck for E-Z Pass users and even more for cash customers.
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat from New Jersey, called for the investigation. Lautenberg, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, is "a vocal critic of the Port Authority and a bitter foe of Gov. Chris Christie, who shares control of the agency with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo," reports the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
Lautenberg wrote the GAO in March, asking it to examine toll hikes, use of toll revenue, and "the transparency and accountability of the funding and management decisions" at interstate tolling authorities.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, GAO is looking at three areas:
1.To what extent do interstate compacts and related legislation establish priorities and oversight processes for transportation authorities?
2. How have transportation authorities set tolls, spent toll revenue, and made these decisions transparent?
3. To what extent have the actions of transportation authorities been consistent with interstate compact priorities and leading practices for toll-setting decisions?"
The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, examines government programs and agencies at the request of federal lawmakers and issues reports and recommendations, which may influence policy debates.
4/30/2012 New Jersey Congressmen Call for Suspension in Toll Hikes
4/19/2012 N.J. Trucking Executive Warns Senate on the True Cost of Tolls
6/21/2012 Tolls to Be Part of Two Major Bridge Projects
5/4/2011 Delaware Raises Bridge Tolls