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Statement by the President Upon Signing Bills Relating to the Delaware River Port Authority.

July 17, 1952

I HAVE today approved H.R. 8315 and H.R. 8316, proposals involving the creation of a Delaware River Port Authority to provide for the development of the Philadelphia-Camden port area.

I believe that immediate steps are necessary if the Philadelphia-Camden area is to develop as it should. Delay in the creation of the Port Authority would stifle the growth of and strike a serious blow at the prosperity of the entire area. I have therefore given my approval to these measures despite the grave doubts which I entertain concerning one provision they include.

These measures provide that the revenues resulting from tolls levied on users of highway bridges and highway tunnels may be used for the financing of other projects such as airports, docks, and warehouses. The result is that the motorist who is forced by circumstances to use one of the bridges or tunnels operated by the Port Authority may pay not only for his use of the bridge or tunnel but also for the financing of other local development projects. This I believe to be particularly unfair to the interstate traveler who derives no substantial benefit from the local facilities which he is compelled to support through toll charges levied against him.

The use of toll charges to support other facilities could create substantial barriers to the free flow of interstate commerce, if the local development authorities operating interstate bridges or tunnels resorted to high toll charges and thus compelled interstate travelers to subsidize other local projects.

In general, I believe local improvements should be financed by fees imposed on those who benefit most directly from such developments or by taxation. Interstate bridges and tunnels can properly be financed by tolls imposed on their users. In this connection, I see no objection to the pooling of closely related river crossings for financing purposes or, in exceptional circumstances, to extending the amortization period for interstate bridges beyond the usual 30 years.

But it seems to me to be a very doubtful practice to require the motorist to pay, through bridge or tunnel tolls, part or all of the cost of other local facilities of which he may make no use at all. I therefore urge the Congress, at its earliest opportunity, to examine the rights reserved to it by this legislation with a view to taking action which will protect the interstate motorist from toll charges which are higher than necessary to finance the bridges and tunnels he uses.

Note: As enacted, H.R. 8315 is Public Law 573, 82d Congress (66 Stat. 738); H.R. 8316 is Public Law 74, 82d Congress (66 Stat. 747).

Harry S Truman, Statement by the President Upon Signing Bills Relating to the Delaware River Port Authority. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231203

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