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

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Adam Garber, the PIRG consumer watchdog, was shocked when he discovered recalled baby rockers at his infant son's day care this June.

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Nathan Proctor advocates for our right to repair at the FTC’s 'Nixing the Fix' workshop

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News Release | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New report exposes nine wasteful highway projects across the country

Highway projects are notorious for wasting taxpayer dollars. In the fifth edition of their Highway Boondoggles report, Iowa PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group identify nine new wasteful highway expansion projects across the country, slated to cost at least $25 billion collectively. Over five editions of the report, the groups have profiled 50 boondoggles.

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News Release | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New report grades all 50 states on Volkswagen settlement spending plans

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Report: Roadmap for a stronger, more sustainable American infrastructure

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Result | Safe Energy

Once Again - Protecting Consumers from the High Cost and Risk of Nuclear Power

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President Confirms Director Cordray To Head the CFPB

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Result | Safe Energy

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Result | Budget, Tax

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Report | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Health Care

The Real Price of Medications

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

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Paying for Electric Buses

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

House Committee Takes Actions To Clean Up Credit Bureau Mistakes | Ed Mierzwinski

In committee votes this week and last week, the House Financial Services Committee sent a package of credit reporting reforms on to the House floor. It's the first major Congressional action to rein in the so-called Big 3 credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian and Trans Union - and other smaller, specialized bureaus and credit scoring companies, since 2003. The Big 3 national credit bureaus have been the most complained about financial firms to the CFPB for four years running, predating the massive Equifax data breach.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Antibiotics

Why does agribusiness keep overusing antibiotics? Consider 'Pig Zero.'

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Claire's recalls more sparkly children's makeup after FDA finds asbestos

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Everybody knows somebody who has a "bad airline story" involving a long flight delay, sitting on the tarmac, being "bumped," losing baggage or some nightmare combination thereof.

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Blog Post | Antibiotics, Food

It's time for Wendy's to get antibiotics off the menu

 

The fast food chain Wendy's has a role to play in preventing a future in which antibiotics no longer work to protect our health.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Antibiotics

Why does agribusiness keep overusing antibiotics? Consider 'Pig Zero.'

"Don't wait for Pig Zero," declared the poster, featuring a pig peeking through a giant blue zero, that appeared at last year's swine industry trade show.

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Claire's recalls more sparkly children's makeup after FDA finds asbestos

Like the teen star herself, Claire's JoJo Siwa Makeup Set is colorful, sparkly and shimmery—but it's now been found to contain asbestos.

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Flying this summer? You'll want to know your rights.

Everybody knows somebody who has a "bad airline story" involving a long flight delay, sitting on the tarmac, being "bumped," losing baggage or some nightmare combination thereof.

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Blog Post | Antibiotics, Food

It's time for Wendy's to get antibiotics off the menu

 

The fast food chain Wendy's has a role to play in preventing a future in which antibiotics no longer work to protect our health.

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Each year, America landfills and incinerates enough organic material to fill a line of 18-wheelers stretching from New York to Los Angeles 10 times over.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG

The Food and Drug Administration proposed a rule today that would require new warnings for cigarette packages that depict the health risks of smoking. 

News Release | Iowa PIRG Education Fund

Three months after nearly 5.4 million infant sleepers were recalled for causing 36 infant deaths, a new survey by the Iowa Public Interest Research Group Education (Iowa PIRG) and Kids in Danger (KID) revealed that many child care facilities continue to use these dangerous inclined sleepers. The survey began after PIRG Consumer Watchdog Adam Garber discovered that his own son’s daycare in Philadelphia was using the recalled products.

Report | U.S.PIRG Education Fund and Kids In Danger

Every day, millions of kids are dropped off at child care facilities across the country by parents and caretakers who are looking forward to seeing them safe and sound at the end of the day. But new research found some dangerous recalled products are still in use at child care facilities across the country.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund & Kids in Danger

Three months after nearly 5.4 million infant sleepers were recalled for causing 36 infant deaths, a new survey by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education (U.S. PIRG) and Kids in Danger (KID) revealed that many child care facilities continue to use these dangerous inclined sleepers.

Blog Post

The number of statewide plastic bag bans in the U.S. tripled in June, with Maine, Vermont, Connecticut and Oregon adding themselves to the list.

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Deadly sleepers still in use at daycares

Our Consumer Watchdog team found 1-in-10 daycare centers using recalled sleepers that have killed more than 30 children.

 

Public Health | U.S. PIRG

Ban Roundup

As cancer victims hold Monsanto accountable in court, our governor should act to ban Roundup unless and until it's proven safe.

 

Antibiotics | U.S. PIRG

Another chain commits to reduce antibiotics

By committing to a concrete timeline for reducing antibiotic use in its beef supply chain, Taco Bell is taking an important step to help preserve these life-saving medicines. We're calling on Wendy's to follow their lead. Learn more.

 

Consumer Tips | U.S. PIRG

Capital One exposes 100 million to identity theft in largest-ever bank hack

Coming on top of the settlement of the massive Equifax data breach, the Capital One breach should serve as a wakeup call to all consumers to hit freeze on their financial identity today to ensure they are protected. Here's how.

 
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