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

News Release | U.S. PIRG

New report exposes seven budget-eating highway projects still moving forward amid COVID-related budget shortfalls

The COVID-19 crisis has changed how Americans travel and has left transportation agencies scrambling for money to maintain basic service, yet states are continuing to press on with billions of dollars worth of highway expansion projects that made little sense before the pandemic and even less now. In the sixth edition of their Highway Boondoggles report, we identify seven new budget-eating highway expansion projects across the United States, slated to move forward amid a nationwide health crisis at a cost of over $26 billion collectively.

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Blog Post | Transportation

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

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Electric Buses: Clean Transportation for Healthier Neighborhoods and Cleaner Air

Buses play a key role in in our nation’s transportation system, carrying millions of children daily to and from school and moving millions of Americans each day around our cities. Buses reduce the number of individual cars on our roads, make our communities more livable and sustainable, and provide transportation options for people of all ages and abilities. Yet, the majority of America’s buses remain dirty – burning fossil fuels like diesel that put the health of our children and communities at risk and contribute to global warming.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2017

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Blog Post | Higher Ed

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Blog Post | Consumer Tips, COVID-19, Transportation

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Blog Post | Consumer Tips, COVID-19, Higher Ed

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As parents and students make trips across the country to return to college, you are probably wondering how to do so safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. This guide will outline some of the safer options.

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Blog Post

After U.S. PIRG Education Fund report, Wells Fargo eliminates some student debit card fees

After NJPIRG reported on problems in its debit card practices, Wells Fargo took steps to eliminate some "surprise" fees on student cards.

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We're calling on Wendy's to 'Hold the Antibiotics' from its beef supply chain

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Federal jury decides Monsanto's Roundup a ‘substantial factor’ in man’s cancer

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The FDA has confirmed our findings of asbestos in Claire's makeup

Nearly a year after a report by our partners at U.S. PIRG Education Fund found asbestos in its children’s makeup products, Claire’s agreed to take action.

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The grades are in: Report finds states not doing enough to get lead out of school drinking water

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Blog Post

Shortages improved during the fall but worsened in December

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A new analysis by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group found that 8 percent of nursing homes nationwide had a critical shortage of surgical-grade N95 masks, as of Dec. 27. And 4 to 6 percent of homes reported shortages in at least one other category of PPE.

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Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathy Kraninger submitted her resignation Wednesday soon after the inauguration of new President Joe Biden. Resignation opens seat for President Biden’s new nominee Rohit Chopra.

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McDonald’s just committed to phasing out PFAS-treated food packaging from its restaurants globally by 2025. Other restaurants, like Burger King and Wendy’s, should follow its lead.

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From terrorist financing to Medicare fraud, anonymous shell companies have shielded the identities of wrongdoers and served as financial getaway cars for hiding dirty money. But in a historic override of a presidential veto, Congress has outlawed anonymous shell companies in the United States.

 

Health Care

Bipartisan bill to stop surprise medical billing becomes law

Americans will now be protected from surprise medical bills sent by out-of-network providers thanks to a new bipartisan law prohibiting "balance billing," where providers charge patients the difference between their fees and the maximum allowed by the patient's insurance.

 

Consumer Protection

General Motors recalls 7 million vehicles with exploding Takata airbags

The automaker announced it will recall 7 million large pickup trucks and SUVs built with potentially explosive Takata airbags, which have forced the recall of tens of millions of vehicles in the last 12 years and killed 18 people.

 

Consumer Tips

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