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

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
Blog Post | Financial Reform

House Committee Launches Trojan Horse Assault On State Privacy Laws | Ed Mierzwinski

This afternoon (Tuesday, 8 December), the U.S. House Financial Services Committee launches a massive attack on state privacy laws. Hidden inside a seemingly modest proposal to establish federal data breach notice requirements is a Trojan Horse provision designed to to take state consumer cops off the privacy beat, completely and forever. That's wrong, because the states have always been key first responders and leaders on privacy threats that Congress has ignored, from credit report accuracy and identity theft to data breaches and do-not-call lists.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

The Phantom, and Other Menaces | Anya Vanecek

In the midst of warnings that the post-antibiotic era is quickly approaching, we see evidence that it has already arrived.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

Pulling a FAST one on our Transportation Future | Sean Doyle

For the first time in a decade, and after roughly three dozen short-term extensions, Congress has pulled together and passed a transportation-funding law lasting longer than two years. There is only one problem: the new law is the wrong deal for the country.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Not-so-secret-Santas in Congress Using Spending Bill To Roll Back Health, Safety, Wallet Protections | Ed Mierzwinski

With spending authorization for the federal government set to end on December 11, Congressional leaders are working with powerful special interests on their not-so-Secret-Santa lists to use spending bills as vehicles to gut health, safety and wallet protections popular with the general public but not with Wall Street or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They know they cannot win a fair fight. So they’re loading up the must-pass funding bill with so-called “riders,” which are unrelated policies that couldn’t get passed on their own. Everything we fought for in Wall Street reform, including the CFPB, is on the chopping block. So are many other PIRG health, safety, wallet and democracy priorities.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Consumer Protection

New Survey Shows Free Checking Widely Available At Small Banks

A survey of hundreds of banks and credit unions in 24 states and the District of Columbia found that free checking remains available at more than 6 of 10 small banks and credit unions, but was only found at one-quarter of surveyed big banks. The survey released today by the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group also revealed that fewer than half of branches surveyed obeyed their legal duty to fully disclose fees to prospective customers on the first request, while 12% provided no fee information at all.

> Keep Reading
News Release | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Democracy

New Analysis: Tiny Number of Wealthy Contributors Match Millions of Small Donors, Will Continue to Set Agenda In Washington

A new analysis of data through Election Day from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and other sources by New Jersey PIRG Education Fund and Demos shows how big outside spenders drowned out small contributions in the 2012 election cycle.

> Keep Reading
News Release | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Democracy

Distorted Democracy

TRENTON – A new analysis of pre-election data from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and other sources by New Jersey PIRG and Demos shows that outside spending in the first presidential election since Citizens United is living up to its hype: new waves of “outside spending” have been fueled by dark money and unlimited fundraising from a small number of wealthy donors. Outside spending organizations reported $ 1.11 billion in spending to the FEC through the final reporting deadline in the 2012 cycle.  That’s already a 200% increase over total 2008 outside spending. In New Jersey's Congressional races alone, more than $3 million in outside spending have been reported.

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

New Report: American Lives at Risk from Unsafe Foods

Despite government commitments to address the problem, food recalls are on the rise and our food safety systems are broken, according to a new report by New Jersey PIRG.  Contaminated food makes 48 million Americans sick every year and costs over $77 billion in aggregated economic costs.  Here in New Jersey, in the last 21 months 121 people were made sick from foodborne illnesses linked directly to food recalls; the cost of these illnesses to our state's economy was over $5.1 million.

> Keep Reading
News Release | NJPIRG | Democracy

New Jersey Goes on Record Against Citizens United Ruling; Against Big, Secret Money in Our Elections

New Jersey PIRG believes that in our democracy, the size of one’s wallet should not determine the volume of one’s voice. By adopting a resolution in opposition to Citizens United, the New Jersey Assembly has sent a powerful message to Congress that things have to change. Today, our state took an important step towards fixing America’s broken campaign finance system. New Jersey joins eight other states already on record against Citizens United and big, secret money in our elections.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Higher Ed

Obama's New Consumer Finance Chief Can Lower Student Debt

President Obama took a bold and important step this week, standing up for student consumers by making a recess appointment of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The president's action means that the CFPB now has all its powers to protect students from unfair financial practices that pile on student debt, including lenders offering dangerously expensive private student loans and aggressive credit and debit card marketing.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Higher Ed

Obama's New Consumer Finance Chief Can Lower Student Debt

President Obama took a bold and important step this week, standing up for student consumers by making a recess appointment of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The president's action means that the CFPB now has all its powers to protect students from unfair financial practices that pile on student debt, including lenders offering dangerously expensive private student loans and aggressive credit and debit card marketing.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Budget

Problems With Privatized Law Enforcement's New Frontier | Ed Mierzwinski

One in five Americans lives in a jurisdiction that outsources traffic ticketing this way, according to a newly released report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, titled "Caution: Red Light Cameras Ahead; The Risks of Privatizing Traffic Law Enforcement and How to Protect the Public." And a report released by the Justice Department suggests this trend may accelerate under the twin pressures of budget pressure and intense lobbying.

> Keep Reading

Pages

View AllRSS Feed

Defend the CFPB

Tell your senators 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