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 | Consumer Protection

Target Removes Lead-Laden Fidget Spinner From Website, But Still Available For Sale In-Store

Since late yesterday afternoon, Target appears to have made the 33,000 ppm-lead containing Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass unavailable for sale on its website. U.S. PIRG Education Fund staff went to a Target store today and found the Fidget Wild Premium Spinner Brass was still available for sale in-store, despite the website saying it was unavailable there. Also yesterday, one of the CPSC’s Commissioners, Elliot F. Kaye, re-stated his opposition to the CPSC’s guidance and the acting chairman's statement when he tweeted, “Seems obvious fidget spinners are toys and should comply with all applicable federal safety standards.”

> Keep Reading
News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

High Levels of Lead Found in Fidget Spinners

WISPIRG Foundation staff found fidget spinners with high levels of lead for sale at Target stores across the country. Parents and consumers need to know about these lead-laden toys, especially because we alerted Target and the toy’s distributor, Bulls i Toy, to our findings, but they refused to address the problem. The toxic fidget spinners are still available both in toy aisles at Target stores and on its website.

> Keep Reading
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
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

World Health Organization Urges Meat Industry To Cut Routine Antibiotic Use

The World Health Organization’s new guidelines on antibiotic use in the meat industry couldn’t come sooner. At least 2 million Americans become ill each year due to antibiotic-resistant infections and 23,000 die. The guidelines make clear that the agriculture sector needs to stop using antibiotics for growth promotion and disease prevention in healthy animals.

> Keep Reading
News Release | US PIRG | Tax

U.S. PIRG Statement on House Tax Bill

Below is a statement from U.S. PIRG Program Advocate Michelle Surka on the proposed House tax bill's impacts on our debt:

“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, introduced this morning in the House, is an exercise in fiscal recklessness, exploding the budget deficit while failing to close the biggest tax loopholes and relying on gimmicks to obscure the impact on the national debt. Rather than make prudent trade-offs to achieve the President's promised tax cuts, this bill twists itself into knots attempting to distract from the bottom line: it will add trillions to our deficit."

> Keep Reading


News Release | WISPIRG | Consumer Protection

Senate Immunizes Wells Fargo, Equifax and Other Financial Wrongdoers From Consumer Lawsuits

Last night, the U.S. Senate voted to overturn the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new rule on forced arbitration that would have allowed consumers to band together in class action lawsuits when they are wronged by corporate wrongdoers. Vice-President Pence cast the tiebreaking vote after a 50-50 deadlock. WISPIRG Director Peter Skopec issued the following statement in response.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Health Care

New health care executive order is a step in the wrong direction

Today, President Trump signed a new Executive Order that aims to loosen up rules for health insurance plans for individuals, families and small businesses. Though the administration touts the potential for lower-cost health insurance under looser rules, this action will not help American consumers. In fact, it is likely to make matters worse by destabilizing the markets Americans rely on for health coverage. American consumers need real action on health care costs, but this simply will not cut it.

> Keep Reading
News Release | WISPIRG | Budget, Transportation

Coalition Celebrates Final Rejection of Expensive I-94 E/W Expansion

MILWAUKEE - The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) stated that it would formally rescind its approval for the proposed I-94 East-West expansion between the Zoo and Marquette Interchanges in Milwaukee. Governor Walker and the state legislature had refused to fund the expansion in the recently signed biennial budget, and Wisconsin Transportation Secretary Ross had asked USDOT to withdraw its record of decision approving the project.

> Keep Reading

California’s new drug price law is a win for consumers nationwide

Today, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 17 into law, a groundbreaking measure to increase transparency and accountability for the prescription drug industry. We celebrate the new law—passed with support and hard work from CALPIRG—as a landmark victory for consumers, not just in California, but nationwide.

> Keep Reading
News Release | WISPIRG | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

New Federal Action on Payday Lending Will Help Wisconsinites

MADISON – Advocates praised a rule with new consumer protections that will reduce the harms of short-term payday and car-title lending to Wisconsinites, issued yesterday by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). On a press conference call this morning, the groups welcomed the new protections as an important step, while also calling on state and federal decision-makers to take additional action to stop the payday debt trap.

> Keep Reading


Result | Democracy

Enforcing Wisconsin's Ethics Laws

In 2007, a WISPIRG-backed bill enforcing our state’s ethics laws was passed and signed into law. The new legislation promotes more vigorous enforcement of Wisconsin’s state ethics code and campaign finance laws.

> Keep Reading
Result | Higher Ed

Standing Up For Students, Not Lenders

We helped pass the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, the most meaningful higher education reform in more than 15 years. The legislation gives billions of dollars in additional aid to students through the Pell Grant program. The bill is funded by reducing wasteful lender subsidies.

> Keep Reading

Stopping Identity Theft

A WISPIRG-backed bill to give consumers the ability to freeze their credit reports was signed into law in 2006. The law will allow consumers to lock out identity thieves, and further protect themselves from fraud.

> Keep Reading


Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Financial Reform, Tax

Picking Up The Tab 2015

Every year, corporations and wealthy individuals 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 federal and state income tax liabilities by billions of dollars. While 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 – they continue to avoid paying for these benefits.

> Keep Reading
Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

The Innovative Transportation Index

This report reviews the availability of 11 technology-enabled transportation services – including online ridesourcing, carsharing, ridesharing, taxi hailing, static and real-time transit information, multi-modal apps, and virtual transit ticketing – in 70 U.S. cities. It finds that residents of 19 cities, with a combined population of nearly 28 million people, have access to eight or more of these services, with other cities catching up rapidly.

> Keep Reading
Report | WISPIRG | Democracy

The Money Chase

Five years after the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision, what are the roles of large donors and average voters in selecting and supporting candidates for Congress? This report examines the role of money in the 2014 congressional elections from both quantitative and qualitative perspectives, and demonstrates how matching small political contributions with limited public funds can change the campaign landscape for grassroots candidates.

> Keep Reading
Report | WISPIRG | Transportation

The Rehab-Transit Option:

With the publication of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has taken another big step forward in its drive to widen I-94 in Milwaukee’s East-West Corridor.  They have dismissed, rather peremptorily, other options for the future.   The purpose of this paper is not to criticize WisDOT’s chosen option but to demonstrate that another option – called here the “Rehab/Transit Option” – is not only feasible, but is in fact a better choice for the future of Milwaukee’s East-West Corridor.  

> Keep Reading
Report | WISPIRG | Transportation

A Better Solution for the I-94 East-West Corridor

Check out the map for our proposed Better Solution for the I-94 East-West Corridor: "Rehab/Transit" Alternative 

> Keep Reading


Blog Post | Financial Reform

Financial Choice Act: A Cruel Choice for the CFPB & Consumers | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED 4/25 with link to our letter to Congress. This week, on Wednesday 4/26, the House FInancial Services Committee holds a hearing on Chairman Jeb Hensarling's Financial Choice Act 2.0. It's a brutal un-do of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that forgets, or ignores, the historical fact that reckless bank practices abetted by loose regulators wrecked our economy in 2008. A key goal of the proposal is to weaken the successful CFPB into an unrecognizable husk incapable of protecting consumers.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

If the CFPB Is Weakened, Won’t the Credit Bureaus Run Amok (Again?) | Ed Mierzwinski

The CFPB is doing incredible work defending consumers. You may not know how much of that work involves cleaning up the sloppy credit bureaus. Congressional and special interest attacks on the CFPB will slow all or stop all CFPB work. It will let the bureaus run amok, again, placing your credit score and financial opportunity and job prospects at risk.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Is On The Job Protecting Consumers | Ed Mierzwinski

While powerful special interests, Senators, the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and the White House call for dismantling the CFPB, firing its excellent director, or worse, CFPB continues to be an agency that is on the job, conducting business as usual to protect consumers. Its latest "Monthly Complaint Snapshot" is an open window into the many reasons we need a strong CFPB.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Higher Ed

Consumer, Student Education Groups Defend CFPB To Congress | Chris Lindstrom

Nearly 60 student, consumer, and education groups signed on to this letter that was sent up to the Hill on Monday, February 13.  It calls for the CFPB to remain a strong, independent agency, so it can protect student loan borrowers (and taxpayers) from predatory lending tactics.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Health Care

PIRG applauds decisions blocking health insurance mega-mergers

This week, in a big win for consumers, a district court took action to block the proposed merger between health insurance giants Anthem and Cigna. This decision follows a ruling last month that blocked the proposed merger of two more of the nation’s biggest for-profit health insurers, Aetna and Humana. These decisions come after months of work by U.S. PIRG and a broad coalition of consumer and health care groups, urging close scrutiny of the mergers from state and federal regulators and raising questions and concerns about the potential impact of the mergers.

> Keep Reading


View AllRSS Feed

Defend the CFPB

Tell your senators to oppose the “Financial CHOICE Act,” which would gut Wall Street reforms and destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as we know it.

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