The Delaware River Port Authority has moved closer to defining its role in a plan to unify port operations in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey.
The bi-state board, during its regular monthly meeting, authorized its executive committee to prepare a study that will spell out the authority's functions in the event of port unification.The study also will determine whether the authority's charter will need to be changed if the port is restructured.
The charter is an agreement between New Jersey and Pennsylvania establishing the authority to oversee four bridges, a high-speed commuter rail line and marketing operations for the private and public port agencies along the river.
The Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware ports operate independently and compete with each other as well as with other eastern ports for business.
Supporters of a plan to unify port operations into a central agency say the move will make the ports more competitive and more profitable.
The DRPA has spearheaded the drive to unify the ports, which contribute an estimated $3 billion to the region's economy.
Don Bailey, Pennsylvania auditor general and a DRPA commissioner, said he would have his staff prepare an outline of a proposed performance audit.
Such an audit could determine whether the current DRPA staff would be able to oversee a unification process, said William Dickey of New Jersey, board chairman.
In other business, the board approved a 4.3 percent wage increase for non-supervisory unionized employees of Patco, said DRPA spokesman William Lynch. The raise was retroactive to Sept. 1.