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 | WISPIRG Foundation | Budget, Transportation

Study finds public transit, walking and biking options could help keep Millennials in Wisconsin

A new WISPIRG Foundation study released today found that investing in public transit and walking and biking infrastructure could help Wisconsin attract and retain young adults. The report, entitled Millennials on the Move, also indicates that Wisconsin’s current transportation policy priorities – which have focused on expanding major highways at the expense of maintaining existing infrastructure and funding public transit, walking and biking – will fail to create the type of system young adults desire and Wisconsin needs.

> Keep Reading
Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Budget, Transportation

Millennials on the Move

Car culture no longer represents the “American Dream” for young Americans. Many young people today prefer car-light, multimodal lifestyles that allow them to get around efficiently, multitask while commuting, and feel connected to their communities. Millennials are drawn to the high quality of life in places that offer extensive and safe walking and biking options, as well as clean, fast, and efficient public transportation networks. Moreover, this preference for multimodal lifestyles appears to be influencing young people’s decisions about where to live and work.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Antibiotics

Domino's: Don't 'micromanage' our overuse of antibiotics

With antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" becoming a growing public health crisis, Domino's Pizza is choosing to fight, rather than address, a call to action.

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Blog Post | Solid Waste

Nestle plans to phase out plastic straws as more corporations respond to consumer demand

Nestle is responding to consumer demands to reduce plastic waste.

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Blog Post | Antibiotics

Really?! The Trump administration is allowing agribusiness to spray antibiotics on half a million acres of citrus

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided that the economic benefits of spraying antibiotics on millions of citrus trees outweighs the cost of potential antibiotic resistance.

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Pages

News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Budget, Transportation

Study finds public transit, walking and biking options could help keep Millennials in Wisconsin

A new WISPIRG Foundation study released today found that investing in public transit and walking and biking infrastructure could help Wisconsin attract and retain young adults. The report, entitled Millennials on the Move, also indicates that Wisconsin’s current transportation policy priorities – which have focused on expanding major highways at the expense of maintaining existing infrastructure and funding public transit, walking and biking – will fail to create the type of system young adults desire and Wisconsin needs.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG

Remembering John Dingell

A personal remembrance from Katie Murtha, who serves as vice president of federal government affairs for U.S. PIRG and Environment America, both members of The Public Interest Network. Katie was formerly chief of staff for U.S. Rep. John Dingell, who passed away Thursday.

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News Release | WISPIRG | Consumer Protection

Statement: U.S. Consumer Bureau gives payday debt traps its seal of approval

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) today released a proposal for gutting its own payday lending borrower protections, which were originally set to go into effect this August. “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, under Director Kathy Kraninger, has officially given payday debt traps its seal of approval," said WISPIRG Director Peter Skopec. "Today’s proposal is a reckless rubber-stamping of predatory lending."

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Antibiotics

Fast food and football: who scores, who fumbles?

With Super Bowl LIII coming up Sunday, Americans have foods such as hamburgers and pizza on their minds -- and many corporations (such as Budweiser) are touting their socially-responsible deeds in commercials.

But many corporate deeds go under the radar. In late January, two companies closely identified with football made big plays. One scored. One fumbled.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

U.S. PIRG and Leading Groups Demand Real Privacy Protection and Digital Rights

Today, U.S. PIRG joined leading consumer, privacy and civil rights groups to issue a Privacy Protection and Digital Rights Framework that must form the basis of any new federal privacy law. The release comes as a phalanx of big tech firms and their allies is urging Congress to instead enact a new law that serves them, but preempts stronger state laws and allows all current intrusive industry data collection, sharing and surveillance practices to continue unfettered by any aspect of consumer control or rights.

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Pages

Payday Loan Expansion Stopped

In July 2015, after WISPIRG convened a coalition of 30 groups to call for action, Gov. Scott Walker vetoed budget provisions that would have dramatically expanded payday lenders’ authority to sell predatory financial products to Wisconsin consumers. Payday loans trap consumers in a spiral of growing debt with detrimental impacts, particularly for low-income borrowers.

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Payday Loan Expansion Stopped

In July 2015, after WISPIRG convened a coalition of 30 groups to call for action, Gov. Scott Walker vetoed budget provisions that would have dramatically expanded payday lenders’ authority to sell predatory financial products to Wisconsin consumers. Payday loans trap consumers in a spiral of growing debt with detrimental impacts, particularly for low-income borrowers.

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Reforming Wisconsin’s Transportation Priorities

In 2015, WISPIRG and our coalition partners urged legislators to stop billion-dollar highway boondoggles, like the I-94 expansion, and our hard work paid off: The expansion of I-94 is on hold indefinitely, and we will work to stop it for good before the next budget debate begins in 2017. Just as significant is that legislators have taken up our call to examine the Department of Transportation’s flawed traffic forecasts by ordering an audit of the State Highway Program.

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Result | Democracy

Delivering one million petitions to President Obama on dark money

U.S. PIRG joined a broad coalition to deliver one million petitions from Americans, including U.S. PIRG members and supporters, calling on President Obama to shine a light on dark money, or secret political spending.

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30 years of toy safety

For the past thirty years, our sister organization U.S. PIRG Education Fund has taken a close look at the safety of toys sold in stores. Their reports have led to more than 150 regulatory actions. In November 2015, they released our 30th annual Trouble in Toyland report.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Budget, Transportation

Millennials on the Move

Car culture no longer represents the “American Dream” for young Americans. Many young people today prefer car-light, multimodal lifestyles that allow them to get around efficiently, multitask while commuting, and feel connected to their communities. Millennials are drawn to the high quality of life in places that offer extensive and safe walking and biking options, as well as clean, fast, and efficient public transportation networks. Moreover, this preference for multimodal lifestyles appears to be influencing young people’s decisions about where to live and work.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

Toys are safer than ever before, thanks to decades of work by product safety advocates, parents, the leadership of Congress, state legislatures, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

A Citizen's Guide to Reducing Energy Waste

The future is here—but we’re living in the past.

Clean energy from the sun and wind can provide for our energy needs without the global consequences of pollution, yet we’re still producing and consuming virtually all of our energy in ways that do lasting damage to our environment, our health and our climate. To make matters worse, much of the dirty energy we produce goes to waste.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

The Road to Clean Transportation

By transforming our vehicles, rethinking the design of our cities and towns, maximizing the benefits of new technologies, and doubling down on proven strategies like public transit, the Midwest can ensure that the transportation system we pass on to our children is clean, resilient, equitable and accessible to all.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Public Health

Safer School Supplies: Shopping Guide

With this Safer School Supplies: Shopping Guide, parents, teachers, and students can make more informed decisions while shopping for school supplies this Back to School season. We want to give parents and teachers the option to choose school supplies that do not contain toxic chemicals. This Shopping Guide should serve as a handy tool for finding products free of several types of toxic chemicals.

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Pages

Blog Post | Antibiotics

Domino's: Don't 'micromanage' our overuse of antibiotics

With antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" becoming a growing public health crisis, Domino's Pizza is choosing to fight, rather than address, a call to action.

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Blog Post | Solid Waste

Nestle plans to phase out plastic straws as more corporations respond to consumer demand

Nestle is responding to consumer demands to reduce plastic waste.

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Blog Post | Antibiotics

Really?! The Trump administration is allowing agribusiness to spray antibiotics on half a million acres of citrus

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided that the economic benefits of spraying antibiotics on millions of citrus trees outweighs the cost of potential antibiotic resistance.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Home Depot misses deadline to get toxic paint strippers off store shelves

Dozens of people have died. Yet in January, Home Depot was still selling the products that led to their deaths.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

How safe is our food? Not safe enough, says PIRG Consumer Watchdog team, and it's trending in the wrong direction

Unsafe food recalls in the U.S. are trending the wrong way. From 2013 to 2017, they rose 10 percent overall, and a whopping 83 percent for the most hazardous meat and poultry recalls.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Antibiotics

Domino's: Don't 'micromanage' our overuse of antibiotics

With antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" becoming a growing public health crisis, Domino's Pizza is choosing to fight, rather than address, a call to action.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Solid Waste

Nestle plans to phase out plastic straws as more corporations respond to consumer demand

Nestle is responding to consumer demands to reduce plastic waste.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Antibiotics

Really?! The Trump administration is allowing agribusiness to spray antibiotics on half a million acres of citrus

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided that the economic benefits of spraying antibiotics on millions of citrus trees outweighs the cost of potential antibiotic resistance.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Home Depot misses deadline to get toxic paint strippers off store shelves

Dozens of people have died. Yet in January, Home Depot was still selling the products that led to their deaths.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

How safe is our food? Not safe enough, says PIRG Consumer Watchdog team, and it's trending in the wrong direction

Unsafe food recalls in the U.S. are trending the wrong way. From 2013 to 2017, they rose 10 percent overall, and a whopping 83 percent for the most hazardous meat and poultry recalls.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | WISPIRG Foundation

A new WISPIRG Foundation study released today found that investing in public transit and walking and biking infrastructure could help Wisconsin attract and retain young adults. The report, entitled Millennials on the Move, also indicates that Wisconsin’s current transportation policy priorities – which have focused on expanding major highways at the expense of maintaining existing infrastructure and funding public transit, walking and biking – will fail to create the type of system young adults desire and Wisconsin needs.

Report | WISPIRG Foundation

Car culture no longer represents the “American Dream” for young Americans. Many young people today prefer car-light, multimodal lifestyles that allow them to get around efficiently, multitask while commuting, and feel connected to their communities. Millennials are drawn to the high quality of life in places that offer extensive and safe walking and biking options, as well as clean, fast, and efficient public transportation networks. Moreover, this preference for multimodal lifestyles appears to be influencing young people’s decisions about where to live and work.

Blog Post

With antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" becoming a growing public health crisis, Domino's Pizza is choosing to fight, rather than address, a call to action.

Blog Post

Nestle is responding to consumer demands to reduce plastic waste.

Blog Post

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided that the economic benefits of spraying antibiotics on millions of citrus trees outweighs the cost of potential antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotics

Stop the overuse of antibiotics

The World Health Organization has identified antibiotic resistance as one of the top 10 global health threats. That's why reducing antibiotic overuse in food production is so important.

 

Public Health

How safe is our food?

Our latest report examines recent food safety trends, case studies of national recalls, what they mean for our health, and what we should do about it. 

 

Antibiotics

The golden arches just raised the bar for responsible antibiotic use in meat production

McDonald’s, the largest purchaser of beef in the United States, has made a commitment to reduce medically important antibiotics use in its beef supply.

 

Consumer Protection

Congressional investigation concludes that Equifax breach was entirely preventable

The worst data breach in history could have been prevented with some basic security measures.

 
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