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 Education Fund | Consumer Tips, COVID-19

State legislators from 45 states demand online marketplaces end coronavirus price gouging

346 state legislators from 45 states are calling on the country’s top online marketplaces to crack down on price gouging amidst the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

Cordray To "Oblivious" CFPB: "Shield" Families From Economic Harms | Ed Mierzwinski

Rich Cordray, the first director of the CFPB and author of a new book on his six years at its helm, has issued a powerful memo to its current director, Kathy Kraninger, urging her to stop "relaxing" duties on financial firms and to "lose no further time" in "shield[ing] households and families" from the "economic harms" they face as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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

43,000 call on ventilator manufacturers to release repair information

Today, U.S. PIRG delivered 43,000-plus signatures to ventilator manufacturers -- including GE Healthcare, Phillips, Siemens, Drager, Hamilton, Medtronic and more -- calling for the release of all necessary repair information. 

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

Price gouging on medical equipment risks lives, 100+ mayors call for action

A new investigation by ProPublica, along with reporting by numerous other outlets, has revealed that suppliers are using the COVID-19 public health emergency to drive up prices exorbitantly on medical equipment. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Higher Ed

Deals with publishers could make college textbooks more expensive

A new report reveals insufficient or disappearing discounts, structures designed to force students into the program, and missing information. This all leaves students, professors, and college administrators in the lurch.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Food

New investigation: Supermarkets failing to warn public about food recalls

Americans are not hearing about food recalls, and that communication breakdown is having serious repercussions for public health. A new report finds that most grocery stores -- which should be one of the best places to learn about recalls -- don’t make it easy for consumers to uncover this information.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG and Environment America | Solid Waste

New bill calls for U.S. to move beyond plastic

As plastic pollution becomes an increasingly suffocating problem, elected officials in both houses of Congress are introducing legislation to address the issue. While unveiling the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 on Capitol Hill today, Sen. Tom Udall (NM) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (CA) detailed how the bill can improve the health of our people and our planet.

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

Hack doesn’t absolve Equifax of being careless with consumers’ data

Congress must hold companies accountable for failing to protect condumers' confidential information.

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

Statement: U.S. House passes landmark bill to clean up credit bureau mistakes

The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Comprehensive CREDIT (Credit Reporting Enhancement, Disclosure, Innovation, and Transparency) Act of 2020 (HR3621).

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | NJPIRG Education Fund and the Frontier Group | Tax

Following the Money 2016

> Keep Reading
Report | NJ PIRG Law & Policy Center | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2015

For 30 years, NJ PIRG Law & Policy Center has conducted an annual survey of toy safety, which has led to over 150 recalls and other regulatory actions over the years, and has helped educate the public and policymakers on the need for continued action to protect the health and wellbeing of children.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Why You Should Get Security Freezes Before Your Information is Stolen

Here are tips for preventing ID theft and using a security freeze:

How To Avoid Identity Theft

How To Use a Security Freeze

> Keep Reading
Report | US PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Mortgages and Mortgage Complaints

Our sixth report analyzing complaints in the CFPB's Public Consumer Complaint Database evaluates mortgage complaints, the number one source of complaints to the CFPB, totaling 38% of nearly 500,000 complaints posted since 2011.

> Keep Reading
Report | NJPIRG Law and Policy Center | Budget

Following the Money 2015

> Keep Reading

Pages

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
Blog Post | Public Health

History repeats: Congress takes on tobacco industry, again | Matt Wellington

Today, the Oversight Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee -- the very Committee that dramatically and finally exposed tobacco companies’ ploys to deceive smokers back in 1994 -- is taking on the tobacco threat 2.0 with a hearing about the public health risks of e-cigarettes. Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) submitted U.S. PIRG's blog on the youth vaping epidemic into the official record of the hearing. 

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post

Your plane is ready for boarding. Safety is optional.

How can it be that, in 2019, critical airplane safety features could be considered optional—or worse, be available only at a steep extra cost?

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

Our investigation reveals shocking range of prices for critical medications

We know that we pay some of the world's highest prices for medications. But why should the price we pay for the same medication be dramatically higher at one pharmacy than another?

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

Zero Hunger campaign aims to end hunger on 10 college campuses

From Oregon to Kentucky, California to Maryland, students at college campuses across the country are teaming up to end student hunger by cutting food waste.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

Our 'Driving into Debt' report highlights the impact of risky auto loans and car ownership

Talk about a captive market: For most of us, it's next to impossible to work, shop or go to school without a car. Auto lenders are taking full advantage.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Solid Waste

More than 10,000 people pledge to skip the straw

More than 10,000 Americans said "no" to plastic straws in February. Feb. 22 marked the third annual national Skip the Straw Day—a day created by Michigan middle school students who were fed up with plastic pollution and its impact on wildlife and the planet.

> 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.

 
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.