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

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Glyphosate Pesticide in Beer and Wine

Roundup is everywhere. As the most commonly used agrichemical in the world, Roundup and its main active ingredient, glyphosate, is showing up in places people do not expect, such as food and drinks.1 In this report, we tested beer and wine and found glyphosate in beer and wine from the U.S., Europe, and Asia. We even found glyphosate in some unexpected places, such as in some organic varieties.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Popular weed killer found in top beer and wine brands

Many beers and wines sold in the U.S. contain the weed killer glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, according to a new report by U.S. PIRG Education Fund. In Glyphosate pesticide in beer and wine, U.S. PIRG tested 20 beers, wines and hard cider, including several organic brands, for glyphosate/Roundup and found that all but one contained the harmful chemical.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Food

Investigation of E. Coli outbreak in lettuce reveals need for more protections

The FDA investigation reinforces that our food isn't nearly as safe as it should be. This time, more than 60 people got sick from salads, probably because a company failed to sanitize the water used to grow its romaine lettuce.

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Driving Into Debt

In much of America, access to a car is all but required to hold a job or lead a full and vibrant life. Generations of car-centric transportation policies – including lavish spending on roads, sprawl-inducing land use policies, and meager support for other modes of transportation – have left millions of Americans fully dependent on cars for daily living.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Questionable lending drives Americans to record auto debt

The amount of money Americans owe on their cars is now at an all-time high -- up 75 percent since the end of 2009. Americans’ rising indebtedness for cars raises concerns about the financial future of millions of households as lenders extend credit to more and more Americans without the ability to repay, according to a new U.S. PIRG report.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

U.S. PIRG response to reports of Facebook security breach

Facebook announced today that earlier this week, "attackers exploited a vulnerability in Facebook’s code that impacted “View As”, a feature that lets people see what their own profile looks like to someone else. This allowed them to steal Facebook access tokens which they could then use to take over people’s accounts."

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

Second recall of King Bio’s homeopathic drugs in the past month

King Bio Inc. issued the second significant voluntary recall since late July of their homeopathic drugs on Wednesday. Safety concerns over homeopathic drugs extend beyond King Bio as over the past several years, the FDA has issued recalls to several companies for a variety of health products from zinc-containing intranasal medicine to asthma drugs with toxic ingredients. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Solid Waste

Plastic pollution: One day, three solutions

One day, three decisions -- all of which may have far-reaching effects on plastic pollution in the United States.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

U.S. PIRG statement on $289 million verdict against RoundUp

Today, a jury ruled against the chemical company Monsanto, awarding $289 million in damages to Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who said he got terminal cancer from Monsanto’s best-selling weedkiller Roundup.

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Report | US PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Mortgages and Mortgage Complaints

Our sixth report analyzing complaints in the CFPB's Public Consumer Complaint Database evaluates mortgage complaints, the number one source of complaints to the CFPB, totaling 38% of nearly 500,000 complaints posted since 2011.

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

The Innovative Transportation Index

This report reviews the availability of 11 technology-enabled transportation services – including online ridesourcing, carsharing, ridesharing, taxi hailing, static and real-time transit information, multi-modal apps, and virtual transit ticketing – in 70 U.S. cities. It finds that residents of 19 cities, with a combined population of nearly 28 million people, have access to eight or more of these services, with other cities catching up rapidly.

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2014

Among the toys surveyed this year, we found numerous choking hazards and five toys with concentrations of toxics exceeding federal standards. In addition to reporting on potentially hazardous products found in stores in 2014, this installment of the report describes the potential hazards in toys and children’s products.

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund and Demos | Democracy

The Dominance of Big Money in the 2014 Congressional Elections

In 2014, large donors accounted for the vast majority of all individual federal election contributions this cycle, just as they have in previous elections. Seven of every 10 individual contribution dollars to the federal candidates, parties, PACs and Super PACs that were active in the 2013-2014 election cycle came from donors who gave $200 or more. Candidates alone got 84 percent of their individual contributions from large donors.

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Report | Iowa PIRG and Consumers Union | Public Health

Prescription For Change

Our September 2014 survey of physicians paints a grim picture of the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant infections. The overwhelming majority of surveyed doctors reported that one or more of their patients had been diagnosed with a presumed or confirmed case of a multi-drug resistant bacterial infection in the past twelve months. They also expressed concern about the use of antibiotics in livestock production facilities on healthy animals in order to promote growth and prevent disease.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

EU NGOs Blast Google Locational Data Collection as US Groups Blast FTC on Privacy | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, 7 member groups of the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) asked each of their national Data Protection Authorities to investigate Google Android's smartphone locational data collection practices following an investigative report by the Norwegian Consumer Council (Forbrukerrådet) finding that Google may be in violation of the new European GDPR privacy law. All the groups are members of the U.S. PIRG-backed TransAtlantic Consumer Dialogue, which itself  followed up on the report and EU actions with a letter to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Meanwhile, as the Senate prepared for an afternoon FTC oversight hearing today where Facebook may be a focus, we joined leading groups in a separate letter to complain to the FTC about its biased staff report that adopts unsubstantiated industry claims in defense of an FTC call to the administration for weak baseline privacy choices. 

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

2019 Fight Over Data Privacy Rights Heating Up Already | Ed Mierzwinski

Next year, a highly-anticipated privacy and data rights battle will occur in Congress. Powerful special interests from Google to Facebook are responding to the new European General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) by seeking to quash any similar effort to protect U.S. consumers while simultaneously seeking to preempt a new California privacy law before it takes effect in 2020. Will we continue as data collector products, not their customers, or will we gain control over our own financial DNA? The state PIRGs are in this one; guess which side we're on. Today we joined 34 leading groups in issuing shared Privacy Principles.

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Blog Post

In reversal, judge rejects Monsanto's request to overturn landmark case linking man's cancer to Roundup

The high-profile legal case linking a man’s terminal cancer to Roundup has taken another twist.

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Blog Post | Solid Waste

Fixing your device just got easier: Right to repair movement scores major win

Repairing your electronic device just got a little easier thanks to a seemingly unexpected source: The Library of Congress.

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Blog Post

Electric buses are the future. Here's how to pay for them.

Dirty, unhealthy and expensive, diesel buses embody transportation's past. Electric buses are the future.

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Blog Post

Drinking Water Shut Off In All Detroit Schools Due To Lead

As school started for the year, many students in Detroit returned to schools with drinking water containing lead—a toxin that can impact how they think, learn and behave.

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Blog Post

'This Infection is Resistant to Everything We Have'

Those are not words any patient wants to hear.

But a surgeon at The Johns Hopkins Hospital tells U.S. PIRG Education Fund that he and other doctors are being forced to deliver that message. He points to the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture as a major culprit.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

1 Year After Equifax Data Breach, Here's Everything You Need To Know

One year after announcing the biggest data breach in history, Equifax still hasn’t been held accountable or provided the information and tools consumers need to protect themselves. Since Equifax won’t help protect consumers, Iowa PIRG is stepping in.

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Blog Post

On holidays, most of us like to shop or grill or visit grandma or the in-laws. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s good for our souls to take a moment to remember the meaning of each holiday. Consider Earth Day.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Fisher-Price recalled 4.7 million Rock n’Play baby sleepers on Friday. U.S. PIRG Consumer Watchdog Adam Garber issued a response: "“While we’re pleased that Fisher-Price is finally recalling these dangerous sleepers, 30 deaths in 10 years is 30 deaths too many and 10 years too late."

Blog Post

In what we hope will be a bellwether ruling, another jury has found Roundup to be a "substantial factor" in causing a man's cancer.

Blog Post

Nearly a year after a report by our partners at U.S. PIRG Education Fund found asbestos in its children’s makeup products, Claire’s agreed to take action.

News Release

Read U.S. PIRG's statement on Wells Fargo eliminating some fees for student on debit cards.

Consumer Protection | U.S. PIRG

Campus debit cards cost students over $24 million in fees

Report shows how campus debit cards — along with how they are marketed — are putting students' financial well-being at risk across the country.

 

Antibiotics | U.S. PIRG

Hold the antibiotics Wendy's

A recent estimate suggests that as many as 162,000 people die from antibiotic-resistant infections every year. Wendy's can help protect our life-saving medicines if it stops serving beef raised on routine antibiotics.

 

Solid Waste | U.S. PIRG

Let's move beyond plastic

Nothing we use for a few minutes should threaten our health and pollute our future for hundreds of years. One of the best ways to reduce the amount of trash headed to landfills is to ban items such as plastic foam cups and takeout containers.

 

Consumer Protection | U.S. PIRG

The real price of medications

The results of our investigation of variations in prescription drug prices may surprise you.

 
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