You are hereHome >
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.
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.
On Monday, the U.S. House approved H.R. 5332, the Protecting Your Credit Score Act of 2020 (Gottheimer-NJ). U.S. PIRG joined other leading advocates of credit reporting reform in a support letter to the House last week. The bill takes a number of steps to make it easier to fix credit reporting errors.
In a win for public health, Bayer announced a settlement of more than $10 billion with 95,000 plaintiffs who allege that glyphosate, a key ingredient in its Roundup weedkiller, causes cancer. This victory is important. Next we need to get rid of Roundup and other glyphosate-based weedkillers.
In response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) most states are letting anyone vote absentee for the spring and summer elections. Voting by mail is a safe, secure way fror people to cast their ballot because states, especially those who have a long history of voting by mail, have established strong safeguards to prevent improper voting.
As of today, consumer complaints to the CFPB set a third straight monthly record in May, with 35,093 complaints reported. Complaints about credit reporting lead by far, followed by debt collection, credit card and mortgage complaints. Job and income losses during the pandemic are hitting families hard.
Several recent studies have suggested that air pollution may make COVID-19 infections more severe. These findings fit with previous research documenting how air pollution damages our bodies and makes us more vulnerable to infectious diseases. This new research should spur us to redouble our efforts to reduce air pollution.
New Jersey's strict new limits on toxic PFAS chemicals in drinking water among the strongest in the country
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has published new limits — now among the strongest in the country — for the amount of two PFAS chemicals allowed in drinking water. These chemicals, commonly used in consumer products such as nonstick cookware, are linked to serious health issues including high cholesterol and cancer.
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.
Federal lawmakers have put forward the INVEST in America Act — a nearly $500 billion transportation spending bill which prioritizes repairing existing infrastructure over new highway projects, and contains key provisions for more sustainable investments.
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.
Your donation supports NJPIRG's work to stand up for consumers on the issues that matter, especially when powerful interests are blocking progress.