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 | 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
Blog Post

YouTube town hall attracts thousands who want the right to repair our stuff

If you're frustrated because it's easier to buy a new phone, computer or appliance than repair your old one, you're not alone.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Study finds weed killer in beer and wine

The last thing you want to think about when you pour yourself a glass of wine or a cold beer is whether it contains even small levels of a potentially carcinogenic weed killer.

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

Blood pressure medication recalled for 75th time in 8 months

The presence of chemicals that likely cause cancer has prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to announce another recall of the blood pressure medication Valsartan. In response, U.S. PIRG Consumer Watchdog Adam Garber released the following statement. 

> 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 & Policy Center | Public Health, Consumer Protection, Food

A Year of Progress

The past year has shown that food producers and retailers are listening to consumers’ desire for information and choices when it comes to GMOs.  It’s smart business to give customers what they want, and some companies are beginning to build the transparent marketplace that consumers deserve. This white paper summarizes companies' recent actions related to GMOs.

> Keep Reading
Report | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

Debt Collectors, Debt Complaints

This is the fifth in a series of reports that review complaints to the CFPB nationally and on a state-by-state level. In this report we explore consumer complaints about debt collection, with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with debt collectors and documenting the role of the CFPB in helping consumers successfully resolve their complaints.

> Keep Reading
Report | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Transportation

A New Course

Universities and colleges across the country are taking steps to encourage their communities, students, faculty and staff to decrease their reliance on personal vehicles. These efforts are working well – saving money for universities, improving the quality of life in college towns, and giving today’s students experience in living life without depending on a personal car.

> Keep Reading
Report | NJPIRG | Tax

Closing the Billion Dollar Loophole

Every year, corporations use complicated gimmicks to shift U.S. earnings to subsidiaries in offshore tax havens – countries with minimal or no taxes – in order to reduce their state and federal income tax liability by billions of dollars. Tax haven abusers benefit from America’s markets, public infrastructure, educated workforce, security and rule of law – all supported in one way or another by tax dollars. But they use tax havens to escape supporting these public structures and benefits.

> Keep Reading
Report | NJPIRG Law & Policy Center | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

Credit Cards, Consumer Complaints

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was established in 2010 in the wake of the worst financial crisis in decades. Its mission is to identify dangerous and unfair financial practices, to educate consumers about these practices, and to regulate the financial institutions that perpetuate them.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Financial Reform

2019 Fight Over Data Privacy Rights Heating Up Already | Ed Mierzwinski

Next year, a highly-anticipated privacy and data rights battle will occur in Congress. Powerful special interests from Google to Facebook are responding to the new European General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) by seeking to quash any similar effort to protect U.S. consumers while simultaneously seeking to preempt a new California privacy law before it takes effect in 2020. Will we continue as data collector products, not their customers, or will we gain control over our own financial DNA? The state PIRGs are in this one; guess which side we're on. Today we joined 34 leading groups in issuing shared Privacy Principles.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

In reversal, judge rejects Monsanto's request to overturn landmark case linking man's cancer to Roundup

The high-profile legal case linking a man’s terminal cancer to Roundup has taken another twist.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Solid Waste

Fixing your device just got easier: Right to repair movement scores major win

Repairing your electronic device just got a little easier thanks to a seemingly unexpected source: The Library of Congress.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

Electric buses are the future. Here's how to pay for them.

Dirty, unhealthy and expensive, diesel buses embody transportation's past. Electric buses are the future.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

'There is absolutely no excuse for this': Your Experian credit freeze could have been unfrozen by anyone

Imagine locking your front door only to discover that your security company dropped by moments later and left your key on top of your welcome mat.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | NJPIRG Education Fund

Highway Boondoggles 5 finds nine new budget-eating highway projects slated to cost a total of $25 billion that will harm communities and the environment, while likely failing to achieve meaningful transportation goals

News Release | NJPIRG Education Fund

Highway projects are notorious for wasting taxpayer dollars. In the fifth edition of their Highway Boondoggles report, NJPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group identify nine new wasteful highway expansion projects across the country, slated to cost at least $25 billion collectively. Over five editions of the report, the groups have profiled 50 boondoggles.

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Composting all organic waste -- including food scraps and yard trimmings -- could eliminate nearly one-third of all materials sent to landfills and trash incinerators across the United States. That’s according to Composting in America, a new report released today by U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Environment America Research and Policy Center and Frontier Group. The study outlines best practices for composting programs, which are critical for mitigating the negative impact of waste on the climate and public health.  

Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

America throws out immense amounts or trash, most of which is dumped into landfills or burned in trash incinerators. This is a costly system that damages the environment and harms our health. Luckily, communities across the country are turning toward a common-sense and beneficial solution: composting. Composting programs divert organic material – such as food scraps, leaves, branches, grass clippings and other biodegradable material – away from landfills and incinerators and turn it into a valuable product.

Blog Post

The media are reporting that efforts led by BigTech and BigPhone to push Congress to enact a self-serving umbrella privacy law on Capitol Hill are stalling. But that's only for now; they are still pushing hard. Pushback from legislators with stronger state laws is helping slow them down. So are the welcome efforts of civil rights colleagues to demand that digital and algorithmic decisions not discriminate. There's an important civil rights briefing later this afternoon on Capitol Hill. Learn more. 

Public Health | U.S. PIRG

Ban Roundup

As cancer victims hold Monsanto accountable in court, governors should act to ban Roundup unless and until it's proven safe.

 

Antibiotics | U.S. PIRG

Hold the Antibiotics Wendy’s

A recent estimate suggests that as many as 162,000 people die from antibiotic-resistant infections every year. We delivered a message to Wendy’s CEO and shareholders: Get antibiotics out of your beef supply chain.

 

Transportation | U.S. PIRG

Volkswagen settlement scorecard

Volkswagen was caught cheating emissions laws and settled with federal authorities. The settlement included nearly $3 billion for the Environmental Mitigation Trust. How well does our state rank on plans for investing VW mitigation trust funds in clean transportation projects?

 

Budget | U.S. PIRG

Blueprint for tomorrow

Our report highlights which investments will alleviate the most dire problems America faces as a result of crumbling or outdated infrastructure.

 
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