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 | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Tyson chicken strips recalled, may contain pieces of metal

Just seven weeks after Tyson Foods recalled chicken nuggets that could contain rubber, the poultry giant is recalling chicken strips that might contain metal. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Boeing Max planes have ‘optional’ safety mechanisms

Newly-revealed details by the New York Times about of the crash of two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes may stun even the most hardened observer. The planes lacked a safety feature that may have warned pilots about problems because it was not required and Boeing charged airlines extra to include it. Adam Garber, U.S. PIRG Education Fund Consumer Watchdog issued the following statement.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Antibiotics

EPA proposes use of 650,000 pounds of antibiotics a year on citrus fields

Public health and environmental groups urge EPA to deny antibiotic use on citrus.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Transit, biking and walking options could keep millennials in Wisconsin

If we want Wisconsin's young adults to stay here—and improve the quality of life for everyone in our state—we should offer better transportation options.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Menards joins other home improvement stores in ditching deadly paint strippers

 

Dozens have died from the chemical fumes of toxic paint strippers sold in stores across America, but now Menards is joining other home improvement retailers in attempting to stop that number from growing.

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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Fiat Chrysler Settlement Fails to Protect Consumers

While we are glad that Fiat Chrysler is paying something for damaging the health of Americans and deceiving customers, this settlement does not go far enough. It neither ensures these violations of the public trust won’t happen again nor makes consumers whole.

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News Release | WISPIRG | Transportation

WISPIRG Statement on Nomination of Craig Thompson to WISDOT Secretary

Governor-elect Tony Evers this morning nominated Craig Thompson, executive director of the roadbuilding and transportation infrastructure advocacy group TDA, to run the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. WISPIRG Director Peter Skopec issued the following statement in response to Gov.-elect Evers’ announcement.

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One Year Anniversary of CFPB

 

 

 

For the first time, a federal financial agency has placed consumers at the center of its work. That agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), turns one year old on July 21, 2012. The CFPB, established as a centerpiece of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, is the first federal financial agency with only one job: protecting consumers. It has special responsibilities to protect seniors, military servicemembers and students. The CFPB is also tasked with ensuring fair lending and promoting financial education and literacy. The CFPB protects you no matter where you buy financial products—at a bank, at a credit union, at a mortgage company or a payday lender.

 

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Keeping Kids’ School Lunches Safe

For years, Wisconsin’s schoolchildren ate substandard chicken and beef—of such poor quality that fast-food chains wouldn’t even serve it. WISPIRG stood up for kids, and the USDA set stronger standards for school lunches.

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Result | Budget

Making Government More Transparent

WISPIRG advocacy led to the creation of a state website giving Wisconsin taxpayers easily accessible information about state expenditures, providing taxpayers with easily searchable, checkbook-level detail of state expenditures and detailed information about all state contracts.

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Result | Health Care

More Affordable Health Care

We fought hard to make sure the new health care law favors programs that reward quality care and includes steps to contain costs and cut red tape. We continue our work to keep those measures strong.

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A VICTORY FOR CONSUMERS OVER WALL STREET

Even after the financial crisis, lobbyists for the big banks and credit card companies furiously opposed proconsumer provisions in the Wall Street reform law. Over their objections, WISPIRG helped convince Congress to create a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Public Health

Accidents Waiting to Happen: Coal Ash Ponds Put Our Waterways at Risk

Clean water is essential to America’s health and welfare. Our lakes, rivers, streams and creeks provide us with water to drink, add character to our most beautiful natural places, and give us places to fish and swim. Unfortunately, our waterways are under constant threat of pollution from dangerous facilities located along their banks. These facilities are accidents waiting to happen.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Public Health

In Your Face

The negative health effects of asbestos are well-known. Most people may associate asbestos contamination with the workplace or decades-old construction material, but alarmingly, recent media reports have found asbestos contamination in kids' makeup from popular stores. PIRG decided to do its own asbestos testing at an accredited laboratory.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Plugging In

The adoption of large numbers of electric vehicles (EVs) offers many benefits for cities, including cleaner air and the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Electric vehicles are far cleaner than gasoline-powered cars, with lower greenhouse gas emissions and lower emissions of the pollutants that contribute to smog and particulate matter.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

For over 30 years, the WISPIRG Foundation 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. This year, WISPIRG Foundation staff once again looked for potentially unsafe toys. We discovered that unsafe toys remain widely available.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Lead In Fidget Spinners

While lead in toys has become less prevalent in recent years, the WISPIRG Foundation tested several models of one of today’s hottest toys, fidget spinners, for the toxic heavy metal. Laboratory results indicated that two fidget spinners purchased at Target and distributed by Bulls i Toy, L.L.C. contained extremely high levels of lead. The WISPIRG Foundation calls on Target and Bulls i Toy to immediately recall these two fidget spinners and investigate how such high levels of lead were found in these toys. We also call on the U.S.

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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.

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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.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB's Kraninger Provides Opaque Statement To Committee; Questions and Second Panel Will Be Critical | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, new CFPB director Kathy Kraninger testifies to Congress for the first time. The House Financial Services Committee will need to drill down with tough questions. Why? Kraninger's written pre-filed statement reads like an answer to a warped question from old television's Sergeant Joe Friday: "Just the irrelevant, off-point facts, ma'am." The committee should also look to the cogent testimony of consumer, civil rights, military family and student advocates also appearing today.

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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

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.

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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.

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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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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Fisher-Price recalled 4.7 million Rock n’Play baby sleepers on Friday. U.S. PIRG Consumer Watchdog Adam Garber issued a response: "“While we’re pleased that Fisher-Price is finally recalling these dangerous sleepers, 30 deaths in 10 years is 30 deaths too many and 10 years too late."

Blog Post

In what we hope will be a bellwether ruling, another jury has found Roundup to be a "substantial factor" in causing a man's cancer.

Blog Post

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.

News Release

Read U.S. PIRG's statement on Wells Fargo eliminating some fees for student on debit cards.

Consumer Protection | U.S. PIRG

Campus debit cards cost students over $24 million in fees

Report shows how campus debit cards — along with how they are marketed — are putting students' financial well-being at risk across the country.

 

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. Wendy's can help protect our life-saving medicines if it stops serving beef raised on routine antibiotics.

 

Solid Waste | U.S. PIRG

Let's move beyond plastic

Nothing we use for a few minutes should threaten our health and pollute our future for hundreds of years. One of the best ways to reduce the amount of trash headed to landfills is to ban items such as plastic foam cups and takeout containers.

 

Consumer Protection | U.S. PIRG

The real price of medications

The results of our investigation of variations in prescription drug prices may surprise you.

 
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