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 | 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.

> Keep Reading
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
Blog Post | Public Health, Antibiotics

These lawmakers are urging the EPA to protect our life-saving medicines

U.S. lawmakers have sent a blunt message to the Trump Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Spraying antibiotics on citrus will "escalate [the] antibiotic resistance crisis."

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Financial Reform

New Report Makes Case To Keep CFPB Complaint Database Public

As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) acting director continues to threaten to hide the agency’s public Consumer Complaint Database from consumers and researchers, a new report makes a strong case to keep the database public. The report from U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group was filed as an official public comment in the CFPB’s Request for Information about the database. 

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

Anti-public health Farm Bill fails in House

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted down the Farm Bill (H.R. 2) by a vote of 198-213. The bill was loaded with provisions that would have put public health at risk and increased the use of toxic chemicals and pesticides. House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI) has called for a motion to reconsider.

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

Congress Affirms Need to Stop Debt Trap; Mick Mulvaney Should Follow Suit

Here is our statement on Congress allowing the deadline to pass without repealing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's payday lending rule.

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

European government agencies order Claire’s to stop selling asbestos-contaminated makeup products

In the wake of a recent U.S. PIRG study showing that U.S.-based retailer Claire’s is selling makeup contaminated with asbestos, a government agency in The Netherlands confirmed the results of U.S. PIRG’s study. The Dutch Health and Safety Authority (ILT) ordered Claire’s to remove several makeup products from Dutch store shelves after the agency’s lab testing confirmed that there is asbestos in two makeup products.

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

Electric School Buses Can Reduce Kids’ Exposure to Toxic Fumes

If the U.S. transitioned its entire fleet of 480,000 school buses to all-electric vehicles, it could significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions each year and reduce the toxic air pollution to which schoolchildren are directly exposed. A new report from U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Environment America Research & Policy Center, and Frontier Group, “Electric Buses: Clean Transportation for Healthier Neighborhoods and Cleaner Air,” shows that a full transition to electric school buses in the U.S. could avoid an average of 5.3 million tons of climate-altering pollution each year -- the equivalent of taking a million cars off the road.  

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | NJPIRG Law and Policy Center | Democracy, Transportation

Greasing The Wheels

In the wake of the Minnesota I-35 bridge collapse there was enormous public outcry and recognition of the need to repair our crumbling infrastructure. Americans expected public officials to respond to the tragedy with a large scale effort to address the nearly 73,000 structurally deficient bridges in this country. The findings in this report suggest that did not happen.

> Keep Reading
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

Drinking Water Shut Off In All Detroit Schools Due To Lead

As school started for the year, many students in Detroit returned to schools with drinking water containing lead—a toxin that can impact how they think, learn and behave.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

'This Infection is Resistant to Everything We Have'

Those are not words any patient wants to hear.

But a surgeon at The Johns Hopkins Hospital tells U.S. PIRG Education Fund that he and other doctors are being forced to deliver that message. He points to the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture as a major culprit.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

1 Year After Equifax Data Breach, Here's Everything You Need To Know

One year after announcing the biggest data breach in history, Equifax still hasn’t been held accountable or provided the information and tools consumers need to protect themselves. Since Equifax won’t help protect consumers, NJPIRG is stepping in.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

The Facebook Data Breach: What You Need to Know and What You Should Do | Ed Mierzwinski

This guest post from Nathan Acks of the State PIRG Internet Security team offers background on the latest Facebook breach and what you can do.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post

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.

News Release | U.S. PIRG

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.

Blog Post

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.

Blog Post

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.

Blog Post

Public health experts are starting to draw actionable lessons about the nature of how COVID-19 spreads. In addition to maintaining best practices –physical distancing, mask wearing and hand washing – it’s best to avoid extended, crowded indoor gatherings.

Public Health

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.

 

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.

 

Transportation

House transportation bill prioritizes fixing infrastructure, sustainable investment

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.

 

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.

 
View AllRSS Feed

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



NJPIRG is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to getting things done.