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 | Public Health, Food

All I want for Christmas is responsibly-raised meat. | Anya Vanecek

I don't want a lot for Christmas, there is just one thing I need...

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Food

It keeps getting better | Steve Blackledge

By next summer, all of the chicken served on Papa John's pizzas and poppers will be raised without antibiotics. The pizza chain's announcement adds them to a growing list of restaurants that are helping to stop the overuse antibiotics on large industrial farms.

> Keep Reading
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
Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Predictable Problems in the FDA Annual Report | Bill Wenzel

Not only did the FDA’s voluntary Guidance for Industry #213 not lower the sale and use of antibiotics for food-producing animals, these sales actually increased 4%.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | NJPIRG | Democracy

Essex County Takes Stand Against Unlimited Special Interest Spending in Elections

On Wednesday, 3/27, the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders adopted a resolution calling on Congress to stop the unprecedented flow of special interest money into elections. The Freeholders urged Congress to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which allowed unlimited corporate spending in elections.

> Keep Reading
News Release | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Budget, Tax

New Jersey Receives a "C" in Annual Report on Transparency of Government Spending

New Jersey received a “C” when it comes to government spending transparency, according to the fourth annual report of its kind by the NJPIRG Law & Policy Center.

> Keep Reading
News Release | NJPIRG | Budget, Tax

Senate Budget Debate Shows Bipartisan Support for Closing Offshore Tax Loopholes

A bipartisan group of senators agree that closing offshore tax loopholes, which allow large profitable companies to dodge billions in taxes, needs to be part of the budget. We applaud Sens. Levin (D-MI), McCain (R-AZ), and Whitehouse (D-RI) for proposing an amendment to the budget resolution that gives budget writers the authority to ‘end offshore tax abuses used by large corporations.’

> Keep Reading
News Release | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Budget, Tax

Offshore Tax Dodging Saps $2.8 Billion from New Jersey’s Budget

NJPIRG, New Jersey Citizen Action, and the New Jersey Main Street Alliance came together at a Jersey City small business on 2/6/2013 to discuss a new NJPIRG study revealing that New Jersey lost $2.8 billion in state revenue due to offshore tax dodging in 2012.

> Keep Reading
News Release | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Consumer Protection, Food

FDA Protects Public by Releasing Two Long-Delayed Food Safety Rules

Statement of Jennifer Kim, NJPIRG State Director, on the FDA’s proposed new rules for food safety.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | NJPIRG | Food

Recipe for Disaster

The recall of more than 500 million eggs from two Iowa egg farms is the largest but not the last of 85 recalls that have taken place in the year since food safety reform moved to the U.S. Senate. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Food Safety Enhancement Act (H.R. 2749) on July 30, 2009. However, the Senate’s version of the bill – the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) – has languished while waiting for time on the Senate’s floor schedule.

> Keep Reading
Report | NJPIRG Law and Policy Center | Transportation

Economic Stimulus or Simply More Misguided Spending?

This fall, Congress asked states to submit lists of “ready-to-go” transportation infrastructure projects that could be funded by the stimulus package. Lists from nineteen state departments of transportation (DOTs) show that the broader goals articulated by President-elect Obama will be undermined if Congress, the Administration, and the states do not establish forward-looking rules for spending stimulus funds.

> Keep Reading
Report | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Public Health

Airborne Toxic Pollution And Health

This report focuses on releases to New Jersey’s air of carcinogens and developmental toxins. In reviewing airborne releases of toxic pollution in New Jersey, we have reached three conclusions. First, industrial facilities continue to release enormous volumes of chemicals that cause cancer and developmental problems. Second, the airborne toxins are a problem statewide. Third, safer alternatives exist for many of these chemicals.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Health Care

The Supreme Court and the High Cost of Prescription Drugs

Everyone knows prescription drugs cost more than they should. But many people are surprised to learn about one of the key ways drug companies keep prices high:  Paying off competitors to keep generics off the market. On Monday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case about this very practice.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Health Care

What’s Next on Health Care Costs?

Now that the election is over, talk has turned to the need for cooperation in addressing a long list of serious issues facing the country. It’s a tall order, and on the polarizing issue of health care, working together may seem at first like an impossible task. But I am hopeful that we can make significant progress together. Of course there will be robust debate about the best ways to put solutions into practice, and about the pace at which these solutions are to be implemented. But given Americans’ fundamental agreement on the nature of the problem and on how to solve it, we ought to be able to put the most bitter of arguments behind us and chart this course together now.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Hurricane Relief

Hurricane Sandy hit our state hard on Monday and Tuesday, and many in our communities are suffering in the storm's aftermath. Let's work together to get our communities back on their feet by supporting hurricane relief efforts.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Democracy

NJ Assembly Should Move Forward Resolution to Overturn Citizens United

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling has allowed secretive groups to freely and unaccountably spend millions of dollars to sway public opinion on behalf of a few anonymous individual donors and corporations. Wealthy individuals and other, often undisclosed spenders are gaining unprecedented influence in our elections.

Here’s the good news: New Jersey can send a powerful message to Congress that things have to change by passing a State resolution against Citizens United. Let’s get Big Money out of American politics before it drowns out the voices of average voters once and for all.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

Financial follies update: Discover Card pays deceptive marketing penalty | Ed Mierzwinski

Discover Card has paid a $14 million civil penalty to the CFPB and FDIC, plus refunded over $200 million to ripped-off consumers, in the latest case involving useless, junk credit insurance and credit monitoring add-ons that consumers didn't buy, but pay for, to credit card bills. Read more for that and other weekend financial follies.

> Keep Reading

Pages

View AllRSS Feed

DEFEND THE CFPB

Tell your representative to oppose the “Financial CHOICE Act,” which would gut Wall Street reforms and destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as we know it.

Support Us

Your donation supports NJPIRG's work to stand up for consumers on the issues that matter, especially when powerful interests are blocking progress.

CONSUMER ALERTS

Join our network and stay up to date on our campaigns, get important consumer updates and take action on critical issues.
Optional Member Code