Stop Highway Boondoggles

More and more of us are looking for better transportation options. Yet we’re still spending billions to expand roads and build new highways every year, even as other needs — from expanding public transportation to critical bridge repairs — go unmet. Across the country there are countless proposed highway projects that are not just expensive — they’re outright boondoggles. We need your help to stop them. 

America is in a long-term transportation funding crisis. Our roads, bridges and transit systems are falling into disrepair. Demand for public transportation, as well as safe biking and walking routes, is growing. Traditional sources of transportation revenue, especially the gas tax, are not keeping pace with the needs. Even with the recent passage of a five-year federal transportation bill, the future of transportation funding remains uncertain.

In the past, we’ve identified proposed highway projects across the country that illustrate the need for a fresh approach to transportation funding. In our two reports, Highway Boondoggles and Highway Boondoggles 2, we’ve picked out 23 of the worst examples of irresponsible transportation spending, which combined, would cost billions in scarce transportation dollars. These projects are either intended to address problems that do not exist, or will have grave and destructive impacts on surrounding communities. And they represent just a sample of the many questionable highway projects across the country that could cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars to build, and many more billions over the course of upcoming decades to maintain.

Americans’ transportation needs are changing, so why aren’t America’s transportation spending priorities?

State governments continue to spend billions on highway expansion projects that fail to solve congestion 

In Texas, for example, a $2.8 billion project widened Houston’s Katy Freeway to 26 lanes, making it the widest freeway in the world. But commutes got longer after its 2012 opening: By 2014 morning commuters were spending 30 percent more time in their cars, and afternoon commuters were spending 55 percent more time in their cars.

Or consider that a $1 billion widening of I-405 in Los Angeles that disrupted commutes for five years — including two complete shutdowns of a 10-mile stretch of one of the nation’s busiest highways — had no demonstrable success in reducing congestion. Just five months after the widened road reopened in 2014, the rush-hour trip took longer than it had while construction was still ongoing. 

Highway expansion saddles future generations with expensive maintenance needs, at a time when America’s existing highways are already crumbling 

Between 2009 and 2011, states spent $20.4 billion annually for expansion or construction projects totaling just 1 percent of the country’s road miles, according to Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense. During the same period, they spent just $16.5 billion on repair and preservation of existing highways — the other 99 percent of American roads. 

What's more, according to the Federal Highway Administration, the United States added more lane-miles of roads between 2005 and 2013 — a period in which per-capita vehicle miles traveled declined — than in the two decades between 1984 and 2004.

Federal, state and local governments spent roughly as much money on highway expansion projects in 2010 as they did a decade earlier, despite lower per-capita driving.

Our list of highway boondoggles

We’ve targeted some of America’s biggest highway boondoggles, and are working to stop them from moving forward. Just as importantly, we plan to use these examples as a way to spark a serious conversation about making smarter transportation choices, and giving us more options to get around.  

Click here to see our list of highway boondoggles

Americans’ long-term travel needs are changing 

In 2014, transit ridership in the U.S. hit its highest point since 1956. And recent years have seen the emergence of new ways to get around, including carsharing, bikesharing and ridesharing, and the influence of those new options is only beginning to be felt.

According to an Urban Land Institute study in 2015, more than half of Americans — and nearly two-thirds of Millennials, the country’s largest generation — want to live “in a place where they do not need to use a car very often.” Similar trends exist for older adults. An AARP study showed older adults in general put the creation of pedestrian-friendly streets and local investment in public transportation in their top five priorities for their communities.

Moving America forward 

It’s time to put an end to highway boondoggles, so we are working with concerned citizens, community groups, policy makers and elected officials to send these wasteful highway projects back to the drawing board.

Our lives, our communities, and how we get around are constantly changing. It’s well past time for our transportation spending priorities to reflect these changes, rather than the outdated assumptions that so many of them are based upon. We deserve to have a safe, reliable transportation system that offers real options for however people might want to get around. Stopping these highway boondoggles is an important first step for getting us there.

Issue updates

Blog Post | Financial Reform

Well, Well, Wells Fargo! Poster Child for Defending CFPB, Dodd-Frank. | Ed Mierzwinski

As the big Wall Street banks, payday lenders and other opponents of consumer protection intensify pressure on Congress to weaken financial reform and gut the CFPB like a fish, numerous reports of further Wells Fargo malfeasance serve as a warning that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the rest of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act are needed more than ever.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB Finds So-Called Overdraft Protection Costs Some $450/Year | Ed Mierzwinski

This week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rolled out draft "Know Before You Owe" disclosures for banks marketing so-called "Standard Overdraft Protection," a controversial product that requires consumers to "opt-in" for the "privilege" of overdrafting debit and ATM transactions for a so-called convenience fee averaging $34. It also  released a study that finds that at-risk consumers who opt-in pay $450/year more in fees than other at-risk consumers.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Health Care

Our Statement on the Failure of the US Senate Health Care Bill

American consumers can breathe a sigh of relief today. The legislation that was narrowly defeated in the US Senate last night threatened to spark chaos in health insurance markets, raise costs, degrade quality of care, weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and cause millions of Americans to lose health coverage.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

As CFPB Turns 6 Years Old, PIRG Calls on Senate to Block Wall Street Attacks

Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns 6 years old and has a lot to show for it. Because the CFPB is doing such a good job protecting consumers and making the financial marketplace fair, it faces escalating threats from its opponents, including Wall Street. Read our birthday news release and watch our new 2-minute video (we are joined by 98 groups) celebrating the CFPB.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

It Makes No Sense to Eliminate Successful CFPB, Weaken Wall Street Reforms | Ed Mierzwinski

The successful CFPB turns 6 years old tomorrow, July 21. It's already returned nearly $12 Billion to over 29 million consumers harmed by unfair financial practices. Here is a birthday look at the Consumer Bureau's body of work so far and why it makes no sense for Congress to roll it back at the request of Wall Street lobbyists and other special interests.

> Keep Reading

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health, Health Care

Our Statement on the Failure of the US Senate Health Care Bill

American consumers can breathe a sigh of relief today. The legislation that was narrowly defeated in the US Senate last night threatened to spark chaos in health insurance markets, raise costs, degrade quality of care, weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and cause millions of Americans to lose health coverage.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

As CFPB Turns 6 Years Old, PIRG Calls on Senate to Block Wall Street Attacks

Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns 6 years old and has a lot to show for it. Because the CFPB is doing such a good job protecting consumers and making the financial marketplace fair, it faces escalating threats from its opponents, including Wall Street. Read our birthday news release and watch our new 2-minute video (we are joined by 98 groups) celebrating the CFPB.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Statement On CFPB's Rule Restoring Rights To Take Wrongdoers To Court

Financial wrongdoers have long used mandatory arbitration clauses buried in small-print, take-it-or-leave-it contracts to prevent consumers from banding together to have their day in court. Our statement on the CFPB's important new rule restoring consumer rights to join class actions follows.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Health Care

Our Statement on Senate Health Care Bill

Statement by Jesse Ellis O’Brien, Iowa PIRG Health Care Advocate, on public release of the “Better Care Reconciliation Act.” 

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Statement Commending New Military Consumer Enforcement Act

Read our statement commending the introduction of the Military Consumer Enforcement Act by Sens. Jack Reed (RI), Sherrod Brown (OH) and others. These senators have the right idea-- strengthen the CFPB’s ability to protect servicemembers, veterans and their families. Why do others want to weaken the CFPB?

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Result | Democracy

Delivering one million petitions to President Obama on dark money

U.S. PIRG joined a broad coalition to deliver one million petitions from Americans, including U.S. PIRG members and supporters, calling on President Obama to shine a light on dark money, or secret political spending.

> Keep Reading

30 years of toy safety

For the past thirty years, our sister organization U.S. PIRG Education Fund has taken a close look at the safety of toys sold in stores. Their reports have led to more than 150 regulatory actions. In November 2015, they released our 30th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

> Keep Reading
Result | Democracy

Giving more Americans a greater voice in our elections

In our democracy, the size of your wallet shouldn’t determine the volume of your voice. In 2015, we helped win reforms in Maine and Seattle to ensure that more Americans have a greater say in our elections. Seattle’s Initiative-122 empowers small donors with “democracy vouchers” that can be donated to local candidates and lowers the cap on contributions. In Maine, the state’s Clean Elections Act was improved by strengthening campaign finance disclosure laws and offering qualifying candidates increased public funding.

> Keep Reading
Result | Public Health

Convincing McDonald’s and Subway to protect public health

In 2015, bolstered by the support of more than 100,000 members and supporters, we convinced both McDonald’s and Subway to take action to protect public health. In March, just two days after we delivered more than 30,000 petitions to McDonald’s headquarters, the company announced that they would stop serving chicken raised on medically-important antibiotics. And in October, after more than 100,000 called on the chain to take action, Subway announced a similar policy for all the meat they serve.

> Keep Reading
Result | Higher Ed

Protecting students from unfair bank fees

We helped win protections for students from unfair fees associated with campus bank accounts. The new rules, released by the U.S. Department of Education, ban some of the worst and most predatory fees that students encounter from banks.

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Report | U.S. PIRG and National Taxpayers' Union Foundation | Budget

Toward Common Ground 2017

As we enter the budget season under a new administration, our nation faces enormous fiscal challenges. The national debt stands just shy of $20 trillion, numerous unfunded obligations increase the debt burden substantially, and policymakers will soon have to decide how to address the debt ceiling – the statutory limit on the amount of debt the government can issue. It is time to set aside politics and work on concrete and bipartisan solutions to put America’s finances back on track.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Financial Reform

Medical Debt Malpractice

Millions of Americans are contacted by debt collectors every year over debt related to medical expenses. "Medical Debt Malpractice" is the latest (9th) in our series based on analysis of complaints in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's public complaint database. The report demonstrates that the CFPB is a critical agency protecting consumers against unfair financial practices and needs to be defended against special interest attacks.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Student, Education, and Consumer Groups Defend CFPB To Congress

On February 13, nearly 60 local, state and national student advocacy, professional, consumer, educational, faith and other organizations sent a letter to Congressional leaders expressing "strong support for the crucial work the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) does on behalf of student loan borrowers." The "borrower-focused" letter also urged Congress "to ensure the agency remains well-positioned to solve borrowers’ problems, which includes protecting the Bureau’s single-Director structure and its independent funding, and maintaining Director Richard Cordray until his term ends.

> Keep Reading
Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Predatory Loans & Predatory Loan Complaints

This is the seventh in a series of reports that review complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In this report, we explore consumer complaints about predatory loans, categorized in the database as payday loans, installment loans, and auto title loans.

> Keep Reading

Letter: Protecting the FTC from Special Interest Attacks

While much of our work has been in defense of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), we also support the efforts of the over-100 year old Federal Trade Commission.

> Keep Reading

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Well, Well, Wells Fargo! Poster Child for Defending CFPB, Dodd-Frank. | Ed Mierzwinski

As the big Wall Street banks, payday lenders and other opponents of consumer protection intensify pressure on Congress to weaken financial reform and gut the CFPB like a fish, numerous reports of further Wells Fargo malfeasance serve as a warning that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the rest of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act are needed more than ever.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB Finds So-Called Overdraft Protection Costs Some $450/Year | Ed Mierzwinski

This week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rolled out draft "Know Before You Owe" disclosures for banks marketing so-called "Standard Overdraft Protection," a controversial product that requires consumers to "opt-in" for the "privilege" of overdrafting debit and ATM transactions for a so-called convenience fee averaging $34. It also  released a study that finds that at-risk consumers who opt-in pay $450/year more in fees than other at-risk consumers.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

It Makes No Sense to Eliminate Successful CFPB, Weaken Wall Street Reforms | Ed Mierzwinski

The successful CFPB turns 6 years old tomorrow, July 21. It's already returned nearly $12 Billion to over 29 million consumers harmed by unfair financial practices. Here is a birthday look at the Consumer Bureau's body of work so far and why it makes no sense for Congress to roll it back at the request of Wall Street lobbyists and other special interests.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

Telco, Cable Guys Assault State Broadband Privacy Efforts, Sacramento Key Battleground | Ed Mierzwinski

After the new FCC chair and Congress rolled back pending Obama-era broadband privacy rules applying to collection and use of your personal information by Internet Service Providers (generally large telephone and cable companies) the states (and some cities) moved to replace protections. AT&T, Verizon and Comcast swiftly sent lobbyists out around the nation to quash the efforts. This week, Sacramento is under siege by a phalanx of ISP lobbyists as a key California proposal, AB375 (Chau) is considered. Key Senate committee votes occur Tuesday.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

EPA’s Pruitt Met with Dow Prior to Favorable RulingDev GowdaKara Cook-Schultz

On March 31st, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that his agency would deny a petition to ban the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos from being sprayed on food. He announced this decision despite EPA scientists’ earlier findings that concluded that chlorpyrifos, which is manufactured by Dow Chemical, can harm brain development of fetuses and infants after ingesting even small amounts. The news that the EPA would continue to allow the spraying of chlorpyrifos alarmed doctors and other public health officials, but what’s even more interesting is that according to several recent Freedom of Information Act requests, Pruitt met with Dow CEO Andrew Liveris at a Houston hotel just twenty days prior to making his controversial decision.

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