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 | Food, Solid Waste

What a waste: At least 30% of trash could be composted instead of buried or burned

Each year, America landfills and incinerates enough organic material to fill a line of 18-wheelers stretching from New York to Los Angeles 10 times over.

> Keep Reading
News Release | WISPIRG | Budget, Transportation

Statement: Wisconsin’s biennial budget will speed up transition to electric vehicles and improve public transit

Gov. Tony Evers today signed Wisconsin’s 2019-21 biennial budget, which includes positive steps to accelerate the state’s transition to electric vehicles and invests in Wisconsin’s local transportation infrastructure, including public transit.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

As CFPB Reviews Overdraft Rules, UK Regulator Makes Pro-Consumer Changes | Ed Mierzwinski

As the CFPB conducts a ten-year regulatory review of the Overdraft Rule established by the pre-CFPB regulators in 2010, the UK's Financial Conduct Authority has announced sweeping changes to address what it calls a "dysfunctional" overdraft market. The US system prohibits overdraft fees on debit and ATM transactions unless you opt-in to fee-based "standard overdraft protection," but the fees average over $32 per overdraft and CFPB has accused some banks of deceptive marketing of the service. Meanwhile, the UK's FCA is banning fixed fee overdrafts and requiring UK banks to treat overdrafts as loans subject to reasonable interest rates. We've asked CFPB to ban overdrafts on debit and ATM transactions.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

Smarter spending priorities would create a better transportation system | Peter Skopec

This is the second of a two-part guest post on public transportation in China, New York City and Wisconsin from Pei Wang, who interned with us this spring semester.

> Keep Reading
News Release | WISPIRG | Budget, Transportation

Letter: Coalition Warns Against New Highway Megaprojects in State Budget

As the legislature takes up the state budget this week, a coalition of consumer, civil rights and environmental organizations urged decisionmakers to prioritize investments in public transportation and local road maintenance, and to reject any new highway expansion projects in Wisconsin’s transportation spending plan.

> Keep Reading

Pages

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."

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Protecting Wisconsin Kids from Toxic BPA

WISPIRG played a key role in 2010 in making Wisconsin the third state to ban bisphenol-A (BPA), a toxic chemical linked to cancer and obesity, from baby bottles and sippy cups.

> Keep Reading
Result | Tax

Closing a Corporate Tax Loophole

WISPIRG advocacy contributed to closing a corporate tax loophole that levels the playing field for Wisconsin-based businesses by preventing multi-state companies from using out-of-state subsidiaries to avoid paying their taxes.

> Keep Reading
Result | Democracy

Registering Young Voters

During the past four election cycles, WISPIRG’s New Voters Project has registered more than 160,000 18- to 24-year-olds and increased voter participation among young voters.

> Keep Reading

Protecting Consumers from Unsafe Products

In the wake of the “Year of the Recall,” the largest overhaul in the history of the Consumer Product Safety Commission was signed into law on Aug. 14, 2008. The WISPIRG-backed Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act will help make products across the country safer — far less likely to trigger the massive recalls we saw a year ago and, more importantly, far less likely to cause harm to children.

> Keep Reading

Pioneering Prescription Drug Reform

In 2007, the president signed a WISPIRG-backed law to rein in the makers of drugs like Vioxx, Paxil and Avandia, all of which had dangerous and deadly side effects. The bill reforms the Food and Drug Administration’s drug safety review process, makes drugs safer, and holds drug makers more accountable for the safety of consumers.

> Keep Reading

Pages

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.

> Keep Reading
Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Public Health, Antibiotics

Chain Reaction III

The third annual Chain Reaction report, which grades companies on their antibiotics policies and practices, found that 14 out of the top 25 restaurants in the U.S. have taken steps to restrict the routine use of antibiotics in the production of the chicken they serve, up from nine just one year ago. While restaurant chains made great progress on chicken, the groups who authored the report found that there were no new commitments to limit antibiotic use in beef and pork.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Chain Reaction III

The third annual Chain Reaction report, which grades companies on their antibiotics policies and practices, found that 14 out of the top 25 restaurants in the U.S. have taken steps to restrict the routine use of antibiotics in the production of the chicken they serve, up from nine just one year ago. While restaurant chains made great progress on chicken, the groups who authored the report found that there were no new commitments to limit antibiotic use in beef and pork.

> Keep Reading
Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

Medical Debt Malpractice

Millions of Americans are contacted by debt collectors every year over debt related to medical expenses. "Medical Debt Malpractice" is the latest in our series based on analysis of complaints in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's public complaint database. The report demonstrates that the CFPB is a critical agency protecting consumers against unfair financial practices and needs to be defended against special interest attacks.

> Keep Reading
Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Public Health

Get the Lead Out

Our children need safe drinking water – especially at school where they go to learn and play each day.  Unfortunately, lead is contaminating drinking water at schools in Wisconsin, and across the country.  As our report shows, state policy is so far failing to make the grade when it comes to keeping lead out of drinking water at school.  We recommend proactively removing the lead pipes and plumbing at the root of this toxic hazard for our children.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Transportation

This is New York’s Subway System?! | Peter Skopec

To kick off our 21st Century Transportation blog, we're featuring a two-part guest post on public transportation in China, New York City and Wisconsin from Pei Wang, who interned with us this spring semester.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

Consumer Privacy Fight In Congress Intensifies | Ed Mierzwinski

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. 

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Solid Waste, Transportation

Before we spend $2 trillion, report recommends a 'Blueprint for Tomorrow'

For all of us who rely on our roads and public transit, and our water, sewage and power systems, the agreement reached by President Trump and Democratic congressional leaders in May to commit $2 trillion to infrastructure should be good news.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

State PIRGs go to Washington for Consumer Lobby Day

Members of Congress hear repeatedly from lobbyists for corporate special interests in their offices and at fundraisers. How can consumer advocates balance the scales?

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

California jury: Monsanto a "substantial factor" in couple's cancer, awards $2 billion in damages

For the third time in 2019, a jury has determined there is enough evidence to hold Monsanto's Roundup culpable in causing someone's cancer.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Make VW Pay, Transportation

Some states are spending funds from VW 'Dieselgate' settlement on diesel

When it comes to clean transportation, most U.S. states are underutilizing funds from Volkswagen’s nearly $3 billion settlement with federal authorities for violating emissions standards.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Solid Waste

Maryland and Maine become the first states to ban plastic foam. Who's next?

Maryland and Maine are the first states in the U.S. to put a plastic foam container ban on the books, but other states aren't far behind.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

U.S. PIRG endorses bipartisan bill to end hunger on college campuses

A bipartisan consensus is forming around at least one issue: battling hunger among college students.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

Right to Repair campaign pushes Apple to make some initial changes

Apple is starting to get the message: Growing numbers of consumers are done putting up with stuff they can't repair.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

PIRG calls for improvements in food recall system after CDC reports yet another E. coli outbreak

Here we go again: In April, another illness outbreak was tied to contaminated food, this time sickening over 170 people in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG

The Food and Drug Administration proposed a rule today that would require new warnings for cigarette packages that depict the health risks of smoking. 

Blog Post

It's going to get easier for Wisconsin drivers to go electric and more likely that our kids will ride electric buses to school.

Blog Post

The number of statewide plastic bag bans in the U.S. tripled in June, with Maine, Vermont, Connecticut and Oregon adding themselves to the list.

Blog Post

Adam Garber, the PIRG consumer watchdog, was shocked when he discovered recalled baby rockers at his infant son's day care this June.

Blog Post

Equifax has agreed to pay $650 million two years after its data breach put 147 million people at risk. It's not enough.

Consumer Tips | U.S. PIRG

Deadly sleepers still in use at daycares

Our Consumer Watchdog team found 1-in-10 daycare centers using recalled sleepers that have killed more than 30 children.

 

Public Health | U.S. PIRG

Ban Roundup

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

 

Antibiotics | U.S. PIRG

Another chain commits to reduce antibiotics

By committing to a concrete timeline for reducing antibiotic use in its beef supply chain, Taco Bell is taking an important step to help preserve these life-saving medicines. We're calling on Wendy's to follow their lead. Learn more.

 

Consumer Tips | U.S. PIRG

Capital One exposes 100 million to identity theft in largest-ever bank hack

Coming on top of the settlement of the massive Equifax data breach, the Capital One breach should serve as a wakeup call to all consumers to hit freeze on their financial identity today to ensure they are protected. Here's how.

 
View AllRSS Feed

Support us

Your donation supports WISPIRG'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