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 | COVID-19

I’m reading the CFPB’s mail about the pandemic’s effect on family finances | Ed Mierzwinski

I’ve been reading the CFPB’s mail. It’s okay, you can too. It’s public. Not surprisingly, the latest CFPB consumer complaints paint a grim picture of the pandemic’s effect on family finances. I ask: Why isn’t the CFPB doing more to help struggling consumers?

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | COVID-19

New data: Consumers are already struggling with COVID-related mortgage servicing problems. | Gideon Weissman

Mortgage servicers failed Americans during the last recession. And if early data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is any indication, history may well be on its way to repeating.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Tips, COVID-19

Consumer advice: Ask for help with your bills before an emergency

This coming Monday, June 1, will mark the third full month that bills are due since COVID-19 was declared a national state of emergency in March. To help Americans manage their finances, U.S. PIRG Education Fund has published an updated guide with tips on what to do about paying bills during the crisis.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | COVID-19

Consumer, Banking Groups Applaud Bill to Exempt Economic Impact Payments from Garnishment

U.S. PIRG has joined leading consumer and banking organizations to applaud a bi-partisan Senate bill to broaden protections in the recent COVID-19 stimulus package. Under the CARES Act, Congress exempted Economic Impact Payments from offset for debts owed to federal and state agencies, except in the case of child support, but did not exempt them from court-ordered garnishment to pay creditors. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | COVID-19

Can't get a refund from your airline? Here’s what you can do. | Mike Litt

Most airlines are only offering vouchers, not refunds, when passengers cancel their flights due to concerns about COVID-19.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Tips, COVID-19

Consumer advice: Ask for help with your bills before an emergency

This coming Monday, June 1, will mark the third full month that bills are due since COVID-19 was declared a national state of emergency in March. To help Americans manage their finances, U.S. PIRG Education Fund has published an updated guide with tips on what to do about paying bills during the crisis.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | COVID-19

Consumer, Banking Groups Applaud Bill to Exempt Economic Impact Payments from Garnishment

U.S. PIRG has joined leading consumer and banking organizations to applaud a bi-partisan Senate bill to broaden protections in the recent COVID-19 stimulus package. Under the CARES Act, Congress exempted Economic Impact Payments from offset for debts owed to federal and state agencies, except in the case of child support, but did not exempt them from court-ordered garnishment to pay creditors. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | COVID-19

Statement: Consumer complaints about COVID-19 fraud near 50,000

Consumer complaints to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) related to the coronavirus approached 50,000 on Tuesday. U.S. PIRG Education Fund has documented the actions taken by the FTC and 14 other federal agencies in response to coronavirus scams.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Tips, Consumer Protection

Consumer Reports, U.S. PIRG and activist deliver nearly 250,000 petition signatures calling on airlines to fully refund passengers for canceled flights

Consumer Reports, U.S. PIRG and a consumer-turned-activist delivered nearly 250,000 petition signatures today to the airlines calling on them to provide full refunds when passengers cancel their flights because of concerns about the coronavirus.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | COVID-19

Health pros call for transparent, central coordination from Trump administration

U.S. PIRG, Get Us PPE, Doctors for America, and several other health groups, along with nearly 300 medical professionals, sent a letter to the Trump Administration on Friday calling for central coordination of the medical supply chain and comprehensive testing infrastructure.

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Pages

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.

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30 years of toy safety

For the past thirty years, our sister organization U.S. PIRG Education Fund has taken a close look at the safety of toys sold in stores. Their reports have led to more than 150 regulatory actions. In November 2015, they released our 30th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

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Result | Democracy

Giving more Americans a greater voice in our elections

In our democracy, the size of your wallet shouldn’t determine the volume of your voice. In 2015, we helped win reforms in Maine and Seattle to ensure that more Americans have a greater say in our elections. Seattle’s Initiative-122 empowers small donors with “democracy vouchers” that can be donated to local candidates and lowers the cap on contributions. In Maine, the state’s Clean Elections Act was improved by strengthening campaign finance disclosure laws and offering qualifying candidates increased public funding.

> Keep Reading
Result | Public Health

Convincing McDonald’s and Subway to protect public health

In 2015, bolstered by the support of more than 100,000 members and supporters, we convinced both McDonald’s and Subway to take action to protect public health. In March, just two days after we delivered more than 30,000 petitions to McDonald’s headquarters, the company announced that they would stop serving chicken raised on medically-important antibiotics. And in October, after more than 100,000 called on the chain to take action, Subway announced a similar policy for all the meat they serve.

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Result | Higher Ed

Protecting students from unfair bank fees

We helped win protections for students from unfair fees associated with campus bank accounts. The new rules, released by the U.S. Department of Education, ban some of the worst and most predatory fees that students encounter from banks.

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Pages

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Financial Reform

Putting Consumers First

U.S. PIRG Education Fund, the Student Borrower Protection Center and Consumer Action have released a report recommending that  CFPB should use the full extent of its authority to take immediate action to strengthen its consumer complaint tool, hold companies accountable for providing complete and timely responses to consumers, and leverage consumer complaints related to the pandemic to support oversight and regulatory action to protect consumers.

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Report | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center

The Fix Is In

We rely on our smartphones. When they break, we need them fixed — fast. Unfortunately, there are numerous barriers to fixing our phones. Manufacturers might offer a dearth of repair options or digitally lock our phones so we can’t repair them. And when we can’t fix them, and have to get rid of them and buy new ones, that has a big consequence on our environment. According to the new report, “The Fix Is In” by U.S. PIRG Education Fund, independent shops offer repairs that some manufacturers won’t.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Higher Ed

Automatic textbooks billing: an offer students can't refuse?

New report says deals with publishers could make college textbooks more expensive

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Report | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center and Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center | Solid Waste

Beyond Single-use Plastics

Every day, we use millions of plastic bags, straws and utensils, and foam cups and containers for just a few minutes before tossing them, and then they can pollute our environment for hundreds of years. We can protect our health and marine animals by banning or limiting these products, as hundreds of communities and nine states have already done. Banning Single-use Plastics describes the specific problems, actions, and best practices for reducing these polluting items.

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Report | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Consumer Protection, Food

Food Recall Failure

Our research found the majority of grocery stores fail to warn the public about hazardous food recalls. While they collect significant information about Americans shopping habits to sell us more food, they aren't doing enough to use that information to protect the public health.

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Pages

Blog Post | COVID-19

I’m reading the CFPB’s mail about the pandemic’s effect on family finances | Ed Mierzwinski

I’ve been reading the CFPB’s mail. It’s okay, you can too. It’s public. Not surprisingly, the latest CFPB consumer complaints paint a grim picture of the pandemic’s effect on family finances. I ask: Why isn’t the CFPB doing more to help struggling consumers?

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | COVID-19

New data: Consumers are already struggling with COVID-related mortgage servicing problems. | Gideon Weissman

Mortgage servicers failed Americans during the last recession. And if early data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is any indication, history may well be on its way to repeating.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | COVID-19

Can't get a refund from your airline? Here’s what you can do. | Mike Litt

Most airlines are only offering vouchers, not refunds, when passengers cancel their flights due to concerns about COVID-19.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

Mortgage servicers failed homeowners during the last recession. Let's not let that happen again. | Gideon Weissman

Tens of millions of Americans with mortgages have been put in a tough spot by the coronavirus crisis. Many more consumers will likely seek forbearance or loan modifications in the weeks and months ahead.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | COVID-19

“Life and death” -- Medical equipment repairers push for Right to Repair during COVID-19 pandemic | Nathan Proctor

As manufacturers block access to manuals and other fix-it information, biomedical repair technicians press for reform.

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Pages

Blog Post | Public Health, Antibiotics

Superbugs Unplugged: PIRG launches podcast about antibiotic resistance

Get ready for some alarming stories—and they're all the more alarming because they're true.

On Nov. 14, U.S. PIRG and the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center (ARAC) of George Washington University launched "Superbugs Unplugged," a podcast that will dive into the alarming issue of antibiotic resistance and how we can slow it. Matt Wellington, our Stop the Overuse of Antibiotics campaign director, is co-hosting the podcast, along with Dr. Lance Price of ARAC. 

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Blog Post | Solid Waste

Congress is investigating how Apple restricts our right to repair

Congress is taking a look at the ways that Apple makes it harder to fix our iPhones, iPads and other products as a part of a larger antitrust investigation.

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Blog Post

The most comprehensive plastic pollution reduction bill in the country stalled in California. Here's what we do next.

California came close to passing the most ambitious legislation aimed at reducing plastic pollution in the country. But not close enough.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Kids are back at school. How do we make sure their water is safe to drink?

It's not just Flint or Newark. Parents and teachers are concerned about lead in drinking water throughout the country. And they're looking for steps they can take to get the lead out.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Tips

Good news for consumers: A big database of consumer complaints will stay public

In a win for consumer protection and transparency in the marketplace, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will keep its complaint database public.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post

I’ve been reading the CFPB’s mail. It’s okay, you can too. It’s public. Not surprisingly, the latest CFPB consumer complaints paint a grim picture of the pandemic’s effect on family finances. I ask: Why isn’t the CFPB doing more to help struggling consumers?

Blog Post

Mortgage servicers failed Americans during the last recession. And if early data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is any indication, history may well be on its way to repeating.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

This coming Monday, June 1, will mark the third full month that bills are due since COVID-19 was declared a national state of emergency in March. To help Americans manage their finances, U.S. PIRG Education Fund has published an updated guide with tips on what to do about paying bills during the crisis.

News Release | U.S. PIRG

U.S. PIRG has joined leading consumer and banking organizations to applaud a bi-partisan Senate bill to broaden protections in the recent COVID-19 stimulus package. Under the CARES Act, Congress exempted Economic Impact Payments from offset for debts owed to federal and state agencies, except in the case of child support, but did not exempt them from court-ordered garnishment to pay creditors. 

Blog Post

Most airlines are only offering vouchers, not refunds, when passengers cancel their flights due to concerns about COVID-19.

Public Health

Responding to the COVID crisis

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, now more than ever, we need to work together to ensure that our government has a coordinated, strategic response to safeguard the public’s health, protect consumers from emerging dangers and ensure people can still participate fully in our democracy.

 

Consumer Protection

Record volume of CFPB complaints encapsulates why Americans need greater financial protection

A U.S. PIRG report finds that complaints filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reached record numbers in April. Credit reporting complaints, which historically top the list, increased by more than 20,000.

 

Transportation

New Jersey to invest more than $60 million in electric transportation after rejoining RGGI

In New Jersey, a cleaner and more efficient transportation system is on the horizon. On April 17, three state agencies jointly announced the final Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) Strategic Funding Plan, which will allocate 75 percent of a total clean energy fund of more than $80 million to electrifying New Jersey’s transportation sector.

 

Public Health

New Jersey says 'enough' to flavored vape pods

Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation to prohibit the sale of flavored e-cigarette products in New Jersey, making it the second state to do so. The new law encompasses candy, fruit, mint and dessert flavored vape pods that appeal especially to teens, and which have contributed to an explosion in teen nicotine use across the country.

 
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