Stop Highway Boondoggles

More and more of us are moving off the roads. 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. 

It's time to shift our transportation priorities

These days, more and more of us are moving off the roads. We’re driving less on average than we have in years past — driving peaked in America in 2007. Since then, the Millennial Generation has led the way, with more people walking, biking and taking transit. In fact, in 2014 more people used public transportation than they had since 1956! Meanwhile, new technologies and other options, such as bike-sharing, are making it easier for people to rely less on cars.

Yet, despite these well-documented changes in transportation trends, we’re still spending roughly $27 billion expanding roads and building new highways every year. Meanwhile, other needs — from expanding public transportation to critical bridge repairs — go unmet. At a time when one in nine bridges in America are considered “structurally deficient,” these confused priorities put millions of Americans in danger every single day.

Across the country there are countless proposed highway projects that are not just expensive — they’re outright boondoggles. Some of these projects were proposed decades ago, and address problems that no longer exist. Others don’t take into account the fact that more and more Americans want —  and are using —  other options to get around. And more have serious negative impacts on the surrounding communities that undercut their value. 

Our list of 11 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. 

The boondoggles we are working to stop include:

Washington: $3.1 billion to $4.1 billion — Seattle is building a massive tunnel under the city that, by the state’s own estimates, would increase delays downtown compared to a cheaper, more transit-focused plan. Meanwhile, the tunneling machine has been stuck underground for more than a year, only one-tenth of the way through the tunnel. 

Washington: $3 billion — A rebranding of two old-fashioned highway expansion projects into the “Puget Sound Gateway” at a time when the state has declared that driving is likely to stagnate for decades. 

Michigan: $2.7 billion — A highway expansion project based on traffic data compiled before Detroit’s population dropped following the recession, it would eliminate eleven pedestrian bridges that connect two now-rebounding neighborhoods.

Illinois and Indiana: $1.3 billion to $2.8 billion — A new privatized toll road proposed primarily to speed freight trucks across the Midwest may instead charge tolls too high to attract trucks, and will likely require hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies.

CAMPAIGN UPDATE: Newly elected Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has issued an executive order suspending all new interstate infrastructure projects until they undergo a review. 

Texas: $1.5 billion — A nine-mile, riverfront highway through the heart of Dallas would have minimal impact on congestion.

Wisconsin: $800 million  — An existing highway through Milwaukee would be rebuilt as an eight-lane route, despite declining traffic counts and objections from local officials and citizen groups.

North Carolina: $400 million to $600 million — A massive highway expansion project is planned for a highway which is no longer used enough to justify the expansion. The proposed project would destroy homes and businesses in a mature, livable neighborhood.

Ohio: $331 million — A $100-million-a-mile road has been proposed for a community where driving has been stagnant for years, and where residents prefer repairs to existing roads and investment in transit improvements.

Maryland: $234 million — A conversion to a freeway based on outdated traffic projections, while the governor claims he's uncertain whether the state can afford popular expansions of Metro and other overcrowded transit.

California: $200 million — A proposed extension of a toll road that is already in danger of default because of lower-than-projected traffic.

CAMPAIGN UPDATE: The San Diego Water Board voted 6-0 in March to uphold a previous decision to deny the Toothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) a permit to build a 5.5 mile extension to their existing 241 toll road.

Georgia: $49 million to $100 million — A new road northwest of Savannah is intended to relieve traffic from an existing state highway, where traffic is lower than projections. 

Moving America forward 

It’s time to put an end to boondoggles like these, 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 | Financial Reform

Privacy, Consumer Groups Critical of Facial Recognition Report

We've joined leading privacy and consumer advocates in a news release sharply critical of a supposed "best-practices" report released today by the Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) concerning privacy and facial recognition technology. While the report purports to be the product of a "multi-stakeholder" process, all the leading privacy and consumer stakeholders dropped out of the skewed proceedings many months ago, as the release explains. It concludes: "There is much more lacking in these “best practices,” but there is one good thing: this document helps to make the case for why we need to enact laws and regulations to protect our privacy."

> Keep Reading
Video Blog | Consumer Protection

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: The retirement industry is a minefield -- but here’s the answer

In this week’s episode of “Last Week Tonight,” host John Oliver called out three main problems hurting consumers when it comes to retirement: First, financial advisers aren’t currently required to work in their clients’ best interest. Second, high fees compound over time. Third, actively managed investment funds aren’t the answer. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S.PIRG | Consumer Protection

Strong National Payday Rule Could Save Consumers Billions

Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released its draft high cost small dollar lending (payday and auto title) loan rule for public comment. 

> Keep Reading

LATimes: Obama's consumer protection legacy defined by aggressive agency

[This weekend, the Los Angele Times chronicled President Obama's consumer protection record, with heavy emphasis on the history and fight over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):]

"[...] Launched in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the bureau is one of President Obama’s signature accomplishments. [...] “I think you have to consider him a tremendous president for consumers,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group."

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

A World Without Carbon Pollution – Closer Than You Might Think | John Olivieri

For many, a world without carbon pollution seems like a distant utopia. To some, this even seems unobtainable. The size and scope of the challenge before us can be daunting, yet, there is good news -- a world without carbon pollution is closer than you think.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Democracy

Big Money Playing an Outsized Role in New Jersey Elections

In New Jersey’s congressional primaries, bigger wallets give a small set of mega-donors an outsized voice, according to new information released today by NJPIRG Law and Policy Center and Demos. Just 383 donors who gave $1,000 or more to candidates in the primaries outspent the at least 6,871 small donors who gave less than $200, and 66 percent of all candidate contributions came from donors giving chunks of $1,000 or more.

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

New Report Shows Mounting Evidence of Millennials’ Shift Away from Driving

The 2000s saw a marked decrease in the average number of miles traveled by young Americans, and that trend appears likely to continue even as the economy improves, due to the consistency of Millennials’ surveyed preferences, a continued reduction of Millennials driving to work, and the continued decreases in per-capita driving among all Americans.

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

Some Good, Some Bad in Obama Executive Order on Protecting Antibiotics

Today, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order – Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria. While the order takes several important steps necessary to control the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it misses the opportunity to call for critical reforms in the agricultural sector that are essential to protect public health.

> Keep Reading
News Release | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Public Health, Food, Health Care

Stop the Superbugs

NJPIRG gathered outside St. Michaels’s Medical Center in Newark Thursday to call on the Obama Administration to immediately restrict the use of antibiotics on factory farms when animals are not sick. NJPIRG Law & Policy Center released a new report: Ending the Abuse of Antibiotics in Livestock Production: The Case for Reform

> Keep Reading
News Release | NJPIRG Citizen Lobby | Budget, Tax

Offshore Tax Havens Cost Average NJ Taxpayer $1,560 a Year, NJ Small Business $4,982

As hardworking Americans file their taxes today, it’s a good time to be reminded of how ordinary taxpayers pick up the tab for loopholes in our tax laws. NJPIRG was joined today by Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-6), Geetha Jayaraman, owner of Grab ‘Em Snacks and member of the Main Street Alliance, and Rutgers students to release a new study which revealed that the average New Jersey taxpayer in 2013 would have to shoulder an extra $1,560 in taxes to make up for the revenue lost due to the use of offshore tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals. New Jerseyans’ extra tax burden is the eighth highest in the nation.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Democracy

Elections Confidential

“Elections Confidential” describes how secret donors poured hundreds of millions into the 2012 election through “social welfare” non-profits that are really political vehicles and via shell corporations formed as conduits to hide a funder’s identity.

> Keep Reading
Report | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Democracy

Outside Spending, Outsized Influence

The 2012 elections were by far the most expensive in history thanks primarily to the tidal wave of outside, special interest money triggered by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The federal Senate and House races in New Jersey, where outside groups spent over $3 million, were no exception.

> Keep Reading
Report | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Democracy

Billion-Dollar Democracy

The first presidential election since Citizens United lived up to its hype, with unprecedented outside spending from new sources making headlines. Demos and NJPIRG Law & Policy Center analysis of reports from campaigns, parties, and outside spenders to the Federal Election Commission found that our big money system distorts democracy and creates clear winners and losers: Wealthy Donors Over Average Citizens, Special Interests Over the Public Interest, Incumbents Over Challengers & Grassroots Candidates, Secret Spenders Over Voters Seeking Accountability.

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

Subsidizing Bad Behavior

BP’s recent $4.5 billion legal settlement with the Justice Department for its misdeeds in the Gulf oil spill was historic for being the largest ever criminal settlement. But it was historic for another reason as well—none of it is allowed to be tax deductible. Unfortunately, too many settlements for wrongdoing end up as tax deductions.

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

What America Could Do with $150 Billion Lost to Offshore Tax Havens

Many corporations and wealthy individuals use offshore tax havens—countries with minimal or no taxes—to avoid paying $150 billion in U.S. taxes each year. To put this sum in perspective, this factsheet provides examples of how it could be used.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Make VW Pay

House Tees Up VW Bailout and Other Attacks on Public Protections, Consumer Rights | Ed Mierzwinski

(Updated 8 January to add vote results): You've probably heard that the House is soon planning to again repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). That bill will certainly be vetoed. But the House has other anti-consumer, anti-environmental bills scheduled for floor action this week and next. The bills take aim at agency health, financial and safety regulations and also consumer rights to band together as a class to take their grievances against corporate wrongdoers to court. That last bill would immunize Volkswagen from having to compensate VW Diesel owners for being deceptively sold cars designed to "defeat" air pollution requirements.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Food

Progress in 2015 and hope for the new year | Anya Vanecek

This was a big year for the fight to save antibiotics. Now we’re looking to the future and looking forward to continuing our efforts to stop the overuse of antibiotics in factory farming.

> Keep Reading
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
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

View AllRSS Feed

Priority Action

We're calling on big restaurant chains to stop the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Tell KFC to stop serving meat raised on routine antibiotics.

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