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

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
Blog Post

After U.S. PIRG Education Fund report, Wells Fargo eliminates some student debit card fees

After WISPIRG reported on problems in its debit card practices, Wells Fargo took steps to eliminate some "surprise" fees on student cards.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

We're calling on Wendy's to 'Hold the Antibiotics' from its beef supply chain

How can the country's third-largest burger chain help save the cornerstone of modern medicine? By buying only beef raised without the routine use of antibiotics.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Consumer Group Denounces Federal Proposal to Stall Clean Car Standards

The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration today proposed rolling back the “Clean Car” fuel economy standards, which, if fully implemented, could eliminate more than 2 billion metric tons of emissions and save consumers significant money at the gas pump. Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) Director Peter Skopec issued the following statement in response.

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

U.S. judge allows Monsanto’s Roundup cancer lawsuit to go to trial, victims will be heard in court

Federal judge found sufficient evidence to move to trial hundreds of lawsuits alleging that Monsanto Co.’s glyphosate-containing weed-killer Roundup causes cancer.

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

Johnson & Johnson commits to disclose fragrance ingredients in baby products by August 1

J&J said it intends to disclose 100 percent of the ingredients in its babycare products next month.

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

Senate Passes Bipartisan Farm Bill Free of Anti-Sustainability Amendments

We cannot grow healthy food without clean water and proper stewardship of our land.  Today, the Senate recognized that fact by passing a Farm Bill free of attacks on core public health and environmental protections. We congratulate Senate members for their hard work to keep the Senate version of the Farm Bill clean.  

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

Congress Should Reject Pesticide-Laden Farm Bill

Today, Congress again considers a dirty Farm Bill that would undermine protections for clean water, sustainable farming, and our health.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | WISPIRG | Budget, Transportation

Wisconsin’s Transportation Budget

As statewide transportation trends change and infrastructure throughout Wisconsin crumbles, demands on the state’s transportation budget are growing. The proposed 2015-17 biennial transportation budget recommends increasing bonding for transportation to a total of $1.3 billion for the next two years, while failing to address crucial transportation needs -- particularly at the local level. Wisconsin needs a more responsible alternative.

> Keep Reading
Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Budget, Transportation

Who Pays for Roads?

Many Americans believe that drivers pay the full cost of the roads they use through gas taxes and other user fees. That has never been true, and it is less true now than at any other point in modern times.

> 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

Pages

Blog Post

The FDA has confirmed our findings of asbestos in Claire's makeup

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.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

The grades are in: Report finds states not doing enough to get lead out of school drinking water

Lead contaminates the water coming out of drinking fountains and taps at schools across the country, and at least 22 states aren't doing enough about it.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

Your plane is ready for boarding. Safety is optional.

How can it be that, in 2019, critical airplane safety features could be considered optional—or worse, be available only at a steep extra cost?

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

Our investigation reveals shocking range of prices for critical medications

We know that we pay some of the world's highest prices for medications. But why should the price we pay for the same medication be dramatically higher at one pharmacy than another?

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Transportation

Our 'Driving into Debt' report highlights the impact of risky auto loans and car ownership

Talk about a captive market: For most of us, it's next to impossible to work, shop or go to school without a car. Auto lenders are taking full advantage.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Solid Waste

More than 10,000 people pledge to skip the straw

More than 10,000 Americans said "no" to plastic straws in February. Feb. 22 marked the third annual national Skip the Straw Day—a day created by Michigan middle school students who were fed up with plastic pollution and its impact on wildlife and the planet.

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading
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.

> 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.

> 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