People often talk about the amount of corruption present in so-called third world nations. They mention how police officers in Latin American will pull you over but not issue a ticket if you slip them $20 or how getting a building permit in a timely manner in Africa requires a bit of grease to get the gears moving. However, this kind of corruption is amateur hour compared to the corrupt here in the United States of America, especially around Washington DC.
Consider this story. It involves a state government giving permission to a foreign company to operate a tollway at an area that suffers from significant traffic congestion. As part of this deal the state government gets a kickback and in exchange it prevents improvements from being made to either the nearby roadways or mass transit systems. On top of that a local level of government pretended to fight the deal until it was given a kickback of its own:
The current I-66 project, as well as the express lane schemes on Interstates 95, 395 and 495, all contain contract provisions negotiated behind closed doors that ensure improvements are never made to streets bordering the tolled routes. The theory is that the free roads are the “competition” for the toll road, so the deals say that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) must pay the foreign firms “compensation” in the event improvements are made. This is a powerful financial incentive for VDOT never to improve Northern Virgnia’s notorious congestion.
Leaders in Arlington, the city surrounding the tolled stretch of I-66, originally feigned opposition to tolling, but subsequent events show that they were just holding out to win lavish concessions from the state in the form of transit funding. With more buses tying up the streets already narrowed to accommodate bicycle lanes that are never used, the area’s congestion will necessarily increase.
Defenders of the I-66 deal often say people can just use transit or carpool, but they fail to mention that the I-66 deal extended existing high-occupancy restrictions by three hours. They likely are not aware that the I-66 contract limits improvements to the Orange Line Metro, and that the road will soon require three occupants instead of just two to qualify as a carpool. The I-95 and I-495 Express Lane deals force state taxpayers to pay penalties to Transurban, an Australian company, if carpooling actually becomes popular.
The governments of Virginia and Arlington as we as Transurban must be felling good right now. All three of them have already made money on this deal and their profits are only going to increase! And the best part is that none of them have to worry about a pesky competitor throwing a wrench into their scheme because the governments have a monopoly on the transportation infrastructure and can therefore prevent additional parties from building more roadways, light rail, or other forms of transportation! Everybody is a winner except the plebs who have to drive between Virginia and Washington DC.
While people living in the United States think so-called third world nations are corrupt, they often fail to see that the country they live in has more money exchanging hands in corrupt deals that the entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of many of those supposedly corrupt nations. The only difference is that the supposedly corrupt nations are far more transparent about their corruption whereas here in the United States corruption is mostly kept behind closed doors and wrapped in a veil of political ceremony.