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

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Boeing Max planes have ‘optional’ safety mechanisms

Newly-revealed details by the New York Times about of the crash of two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes may stun even the most hardened observer. The planes lacked a safety feature that may have warned pilots about problems because it was not required and Boeing charged airlines extra to include it. Adam Garber, U.S. PIRG Education Fund Consumer Watchdog issued the following statement.

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News Release | US PIRG | Public Health

New Report: More than two-thirds of states examined receive failing grades for efforts to reduce lead in school drinking water

A total of 22 states earned an “F” grade for their performance in eliminating lead from school drinking water, according to a new study by Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. Of the 31 states tested, Illinois was the only one (along with the District of Columbia) to receive a mark above the C range.  These results come from the the second edition of the groups’ Get the Lead Out report, which grades state policies for protecting kids from exposure to this dangerous neurotoxin.

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News Release | Solid Waste

After warning companies that "Void Warranty if Removed" are illegal, the FTC is expanding their investigation into anti-repair practices

This announcement comes after the FTC sent warning letters last April to six companies saying their "void warranty if removed" stickers violated consumer rights under Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act. A subsequent survey in October by U.S. PIRG Education Fund, "Warranties in the Void," showed that such anti-repair activity was even more widespread. The study surveyed 50 members of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers and found the 45 would void warranties for independent repair. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Antibiotics

EPA proposes use of 650,000 pounds of antibiotics a year on citrus fields

Public health and environmental groups urge EPA to deny antibiotic use on citrus.

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Blog Post

Zero Hunger campaign aims to end hunger on 10 college campuses

From Oregon to Kentucky, California to Maryland, students at college campuses across the country are teaming up to end student hunger by cutting food waste.

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Pages

News Release | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New Report Identifies Nine Wasteful Highway Projects Across the Country

Highway projects are notorious for wasting taxpayer dollars. Now, a new report by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group identifies nine wasteful highway expansion projects across the country, slated collectively to cost at least $30 billion.

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

Congress Should Reject Pesticide-Laden Farm Bill

Today, Congress again considers a dirty Farm Bill that would undermine protections for clean water, sustainable farming, and our health.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

L'Oréal commits to disclose fragrance ingredients

We applaud L'Oréal, the manufacturer behind popular brands like Garnier, Maybelline, and numerous perfumes and colognes, for its commitment today to tell customers the ingredients in its product line. But L'Oréal needs to set a timeline to disclose its ingredients. Customers deserve to know what ingredients we are using, because "we’re worth it."

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Financial Reform

Unlike CFPB’s “Snapshot,” PIRG report reveals which debt collectors Americans file complaints about most

News Release: Our latest report based on the CFPB's public Consumer Complaint database reviews the most-complained about debt collectors. Funny, a new CFPB complaint "snapshot" does not. The report comes as the CFPB's acting director threatens to make the database non-public. If the CFPB both shuts down the public database and continues to issue industry-friendly reports that don’t give out any real information, the public and marketplace harm is even greater.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Financial Reform

New Report Makes Case To Keep CFPB Complaint Database Public

As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) acting director continues to threaten to hide the agency’s public Consumer Complaint Database from consumers and researchers, a new report makes a strong case to keep the database public. The report from U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group was filed as an official public comment in the CFPB’s Request for Information about the database. 

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Higher Ed, Transportation

A New Course

Colleges and universities across the country are showing that efforts aimed at reducing driving deliver powerful benefits for students, staff and surrounding communities. Policymakers at all levels of government should be looking to the innovative examples of these campuses. Universities and college towns also provide useful models for expanding the range of transportation options available to Americans while addressing the transportation challenges facing our communities.

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Credit Cards, Consumer Complaints

This is the fourth in a series of reports that review complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) nationally and on a state-by-state level. In this report we explore consumer complaints about credit cards with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with their credit cards and documenting the role of the CFPB in helping consumers successfully resolve their complaints.

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Transportation in Transition

A first-of-its-kind report showing that on average, residents of America’s cities are driving less and using other modes of travel more.  The report compares the latest government data on changes in automobile use, public transit travel and biking in each of the most populous 100 urbanized areas across the nation.  Recommendations are made for how policy leaders should adapt to these new trends.

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2013

The 2013 Trouble in Toyland report is the 28th annual U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. In this report, U.S. PIRG provides safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

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Report | Iowa PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Big Credit Bureaus, Big Mistakes

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was established in 2010 in the wake of the worst financial crisis in decades. Its mission is to identify dangerous and unfair financial practices, educate consumers about these practices, and regulate the financial institutions that perpetuate them.

This report is the third of several that review consumer complaints to the CFPB nationally and on a state-by-state level. In this report, we explore consumer complaints about credit bureaus with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with credit reporting.

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Blog Post

Congressional investigation concludes that Equifax breach was 'entirely preventable'

The worst data breach in history could have been prevented with some basic security measures.

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Blog Post

The Golden Arches just raised the bar for responsible antibiotic use in meat production'

McDonald's took a major step toward protecting our life-saving antibiotics.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Mulvaney Lobs One Last Softball To Industry Opponents of CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

As the year 2018 came to an end, U.S. PIRG, Americans for Financial Reform and AFR members filed the last in in a seemingly interminable series of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Requests for Information. Although there was no clear intent to this "Data Collection" RFI, we, and allied academic scholars who filed a separate comment, both inferred it as another opportunity for industry opponents of the CFPB to attack the Bureau's consumer protection mission -- this time by challenging its collection and use of data to evaluate and respond to financial marketplace problems that harm consumers. 

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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

Walmart To Phase Out Paint Strippers Linked To Dozens Of Deaths

In the absence of government action on deadly paint strippers, retailers are stepping up to protect consumers.

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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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Pages

Blog Post

"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.

Blog Post

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.

Blog Post

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.

Blog Post

 

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.

Blog Post

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.

Solid Waste | U.S. PIRG

We want the right to repair our stuff

Companies make it hard to repair our phones and other electronics so more of us trash our old stuff and buy new stuff. The Federal Trade Commission can make it easier.

 

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.

 

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. We delivered a message to Wendy’s CEO and shareholders: Get antibiotics out of your beef supply chain.

 

Transportation | U.S. PIRG

Volkswagen settlement scorecard

Volkswagen was caught cheating emissions laws and settled with federal authorities. The settlement included nearly $3 billion for the Environmental Mitigation Trust. How well does our state rank on plans for investing VW mitigation trust funds in clean transportation projects?

 
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