“The Delaware River Port Authority”
by Peter Hendee Brown
in The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia
Mires, Gillette, and Miller, editors, 2013
The Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) was created nearly one hundred years ago as a bi-state commission for the purpose of building a single toll bridge. By the 1930s regional leaders had started to envision a larger maritime role for their new agency, but efforts to broaden its powers to include port operations were repeatedly thwarted. The DRPA continued to grow into a major regional transportation agency, making major investments in infrastructure and gaining significant expertise in bridge and commuter rail operations. A 1992 compact amendment gave the DRPA two important new mandates–port unification and economic development — but despite the best intentions of policy makers, the implementation of both mandates proved to be difficult. The agency plunged confidently into economic development with mixed and sometimes controversial results, while the goal of a unified port proved to be a reach too far.