Over the last month, readers to the News Journal have been treated to a story of insider dealing, cronyism, and questionable ethics coming from Delaware’s Transportation Department (aka DelDot). I refer to the sweetheart deal cut by NKS Distributors under the former leadership of Chris Tigani and his ties to the Minner-Carney Administration.
A couple of days ago, the News Journal had a different DelDot story, but one that exposes similar conflicts-of-interest. I refer to the article about a legislative attempt to get DelDot to ensure that Delaware’s roads don’t become a grid-locked nightmare. The article, [Pennsylvania] Developer Survives Legal Snarl, can be found here.
To summarize the article, Senators McDowell & Katz attempted to require that DelDot conduct “Traffic Impact Studies” as a step in approval of major new commercial developments. The thought being that should a new commercial development cause new roads to be built, that the taxpayer shouldn’t be saddled with this huge expense, but that the developer would have to come up with the money.
This policy seems reasonable. If you are going to create an expense from which you will personally makes loads of money, then you should have to bear the cost of that expense. In economic lingo, this is referred to as an “Externality”. It is similar to the requirements that manufacturing facilities must control their pollution. It is much cheaper to dump pollution out of the top of a smokestack and let society bear the environmental cost. So, we have created SOx NOx, and smog rules so that the company that benefits also pays the bills.
So, what does the Transportation Department have to say about this?
Brett Taylor, director of policy and communications for DelDOT, said it’s not his agency’s “obligation” to gather input about a project from citizens;
So the Markell Administration’s position is that they are not obligated to know what the residents of Delaware think of opening a “King of Prussia Mall”-sized development between Hockessin & Wilmington where there is no road infrastructure to deal with it? It gets better…
“DelDOT’s process is not to establish a level of service, it’s to certify the improvements a developer is going to make,” Taylor said. “There’s still a lot of data that still has to be accumulated before we even suggest what is necessary for the intersection and entrances in the area.”
So, the Transportation Department doesn’t have anything to say about the level of service of the road? They don’t care if they allow a project to go through that would gridlock central northern New Castle County?
The short answer is “yes, they don’t care if the road gets grid-locked.” DelDot is full of traffic engineers who would like big projects to work on and large teams of contractors responding to their beck & call. Perhaps, DelDot, internally, wants the project so that they can build more stuff, have bigger budgets, get more goodies.
This seems a logical conclusion.
When a government regulatory agency is in the pocket of the industry that it is supposed to regulate it is called “Regulatory Capture”, and occurs frequently (See the recent BP spill and lack of oversight or the recent financial system meltdown and the lack of oversight). Seems that the Transportation Department has been captured.
The Markell Administration could stop this with one phone call from the Governor to the Transportation Secretary. Conduct a traffic impact study and publish the results.
If you would like to get involved in the effort to promote development that benefits the land owner and the community, please see the Citizens for Responsible Growth website.
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