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 | Financial Reform

Telco, Cable Guys Assault State Broadband Privacy Efforts, Sacramento Key Battleground | Ed Mierzwinski

After the new FCC chair and Congress rolled back pending Obama-era broadband privacy rules applying to collection and use of your personal information by Internet Service Providers (generally large telephone and cable companies) the states (and some cities) moved to replace protections. AT&T, Verizon and Comcast swiftly sent lobbyists out around the nation to quash the efforts. This week, Sacramento is under siege by a phalanx of ISP lobbyists as a key California proposal, AB375 (Chau) is considered. Key Senate committee votes occur Tuesday.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Statement On CFPB's Rule Restoring Rights To Take Wrongdoers To Court

Financial wrongdoers have long used mandatory arbitration clauses buried in small-print, take-it-or-leave-it contracts to prevent consumers from banding together to have their day in court. Our statement on the CFPB's important new rule restoring consumer rights to join class actions follows.

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News Release | WisPIRG | Tax

WisPIRG Applauds Introduction of Bill to End Anonymous Shell Companies

 

This Wednesday, Representatives Peter King (R-NY) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced the Corporate Transparency Act (H.R. 3089). Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) also introduced their companion bill, the True Incorporation Transparency for Law Enforcement (TITLE) Act (S. 1454). WisPIRG applauds the introduction of these bills, which would put an end to anonymous shell companies in the U.S.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

EPA’s Pruitt Met with Dow Prior to Favorable RulingDev GowdaKara Cook-Schultz

On March 31st, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that his agency would deny a petition to ban the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos from being sprayed on food. He announced this decision despite EPA scientists’ earlier findings that concluded that chlorpyrifos, which is manufactured by Dow Chemical, can harm brain development of fetuses and infants after ingesting even small amounts. The news that the EPA would continue to allow the spraying of chlorpyrifos alarmed doctors and other public health officials, but what’s even more interesting is that according to several recent Freedom of Information Act requests, Pruitt met with Dow CEO Andrew Liveris at a Houston hotel just twenty days prior to making his controversial decision.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Sloppy Credit Bureaus, Sketchy Credit Doctors Slammed by Trifecta of CFPB, State AGs and Consumer Lawyers | Ed Mierzwinski

In the news this month are several successful efforts to improve credit report accuracy, compensate the victims of credit bureau malfeasance and also to bring some credit repair doctors to heel. Did it take a village? No, it took a combination of strong consumer laws, a strong CFPB, tough state attorneys general working on a bi-partisan basis and, finally, consumer attorneys engaged in private enforcement of the laws as another line of defense. For markets to work fairly, consumers need all these levels of protection.

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News Release | WISPIRG | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

WISPIRG Statement on Passage of the “Wrong Choice Act” By U.S. House

Today, the U.S. House, on a nearly party-line vote, approved H.R.10, the Financial CHOICE Act – the Wrong Choice for all of us who aren’t Wall Street banks or predatory lenders.

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News Release | Public Health

Statement on SC Johnson’s skin allergen disclosure announcement

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News Release | Democracy

Our Statement Regarding the President’s “Commission on Election Integrity”

Read WISPIRG's statement on the President's establishment of an "Advisory Commission on Election Integrity."

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News Release | Health Care

Great News for Consumers: Anthem Drops Bid to Take Over Cigna

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L'Oréal: Pledge to Be Toxic-Free

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Result | Democracy

Giving more Americans a greater voice in our elections

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Result | Public Health

Convincing McDonald’s and Subway to protect public health

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Result | Higher Ed

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Victory: CFPB Director Confirmed

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WISPIRG Blocks Predatory Rent-To-Own Bill

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Outside Influence: Out-of-state money in the 2016 senate elections

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Financial Reform

Predatory Loans & Predatory Loan Complaints

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Letter: Protecting the FTC from Special Interest Attacks

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

Stop Payday Predators

Payday loans are among the most predatory forms of credit on the market. Though they are marketed as having “reasonable” fees or charges, typical interest rates exceed 300 percent. And because the payday lenders’ bottom line actually depends on borrowers’ inability to repay — most payday fees come from borrowers who take out more than 10 loans a year — they target people with low incomes and no other options.

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Report | WISPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2015

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Blog Post | Public Health, Food

EPA’s Pruitt Met with Dow Prior to Favorable RulingDev GowdaKara Cook-Schultz

On March 31st, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that his agency would deny a petition to ban the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos from being sprayed on food. He announced this decision despite EPA scientists’ earlier findings that concluded that chlorpyrifos, which is manufactured by Dow Chemical, can harm brain development of fetuses and infants after ingesting even small amounts. The news that the EPA would continue to allow the spraying of chlorpyrifos alarmed doctors and other public health officials, but what’s even more interesting is that according to several recent Freedom of Information Act requests, Pruitt met with Dow CEO Andrew Liveris at a Houston hotel just twenty days prior to making his controversial decision.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Sloppy Credit Bureaus, Sketchy Credit Doctors Slammed by Trifecta of CFPB, State AGs and Consumer Lawyers | Ed Mierzwinski

In the news this month are several successful efforts to improve credit report accuracy, compensate the victims of credit bureau malfeasance and also to bring some credit repair doctors to heel. Did it take a village? No, it took a combination of strong consumer laws, a strong CFPB, tough state attorneys general working on a bi-partisan basis and, finally, consumer attorneys engaged in private enforcement of the laws as another line of defense. For markets to work fairly, consumers need all these levels of protection.

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Blog Post | Antibiotics

Burger King Takes Action on Antibiotics, Sanderson Farms Takes a Back Seat | Matthew Wellington

Last week another major restaurant took action to protect antibiotics, and a major laggard in the meat industry received a much-needed reality check.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

PHH v. CFPB: The Latest Attack on the Consumer Bureau | Michael Landis

Tomorrow, Wednesday, May 24, the full D.C. Circuit will hear oral argument in PHH v. CFPB—a case that could have a significant impact on the work of the most effective consumer protection agency that we have. Check out this blog and new short video from PIRG Litigation Director Mike Landis on why the idea of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau needs no defense, only more defenders.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

#KickTheCan: BPA still found in many grocery stores’ canned foods | Dev Gowda

We’re all told to watch out for BPA in drinking bottles and baby products. But how about BPA in the cans that contain our food? A recent study by Center for Environmental Health (CEH) reveals that the toxic chemical BPA is readily found in canned foods. BPAs are often used in the liners of canned food to keep the aluminum from interacting with the food.

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