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 | Financial Reform

Mulvaney Lobs One Last Softball To Industry Opponents of CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

As the year 2018 came to an end, U.S. PIRG, Americans for Financial Reform and AFR members filed the last in in a seemingly interminable series of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Requests for Information. Although there was no clear intent to this "Data Collection" RFI, we, and allied academic scholars who filed a separate comment, both inferred it as another opportunity for industry opponents of the CFPB to attack the Bureau's consumer protection mission -- this time by challenging its collection and use of data to evaluate and respond to financial marketplace problems that harm consumers. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Antibiotics

McDonald’s Takes Step to Protect Public Health, Commits to Reduce Medically Important Antibiotic Use in Beef Supply

McDonald's Commits to Reducing Medically Important Antibiotic Use in its Beef Supply Chain 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

New car seats made without toxic flame-retardant chemicals

Car seats are supposed to keep our youngest children safe. But though they may protect infants and toddlers during accidents, car seats have a history of containing toxic flame-retardant chemicals.

That’s finally changing.

Today, a coalition of groups including U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Ecology Center’s “Healthy Stuff” program released test results on car seats in a new report, Hidden Hazards:Flame Retardants and PFAS in Children’s Car Seats. The authors collaborated with researchers from Indiana University and the University of Notre Dame.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

EU NGOs Blast Google Locational Data Collection as US Groups Blast FTC on Privacy | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, 7 member groups of the European Consumer Organization (BEUC) asked each of their national Data Protection Authorities to investigate Google Android's smartphone locational data collection practices following an investigative report by the Norwegian Consumer Council (Forbrukerrådet) finding that Google may be in violation of the new European GDPR privacy law. All the groups are members of the U.S. PIRG-backed TransAtlantic Consumer Dialogue, which itself  followed up on the report and EU actions with a letter to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Meanwhile, as the Senate prepared for an afternoon FTC oversight hearing today where Facebook may be a focus, we joined leading groups in a separate letter to complain to the FTC about its biased staff report that adopts unsubstantiated industry claims in defense of an FTC call to the administration for weak baseline privacy choices. 

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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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News Release | WISPIRG | Consumer Protection

Rollbacks of Consumer Protections Would Put Wisconsinites in a “Pit of Despair”

Faith leaders, community service providers and consumer advocates rallied on Tuesday, 3/27/2018, to speak out against proposed rollbacks of protections for payday and car title loan borrowers.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

More Info On Our Testing Methodology for Asbestos in Makeup

Claire’s Stores Inc. incorrectly claims that our testing methods are unsound. Its accusations are misinformed at best, and seem to be designed to distract from the bottom-line: that Claire’s is selling makeup that contains asbestos to preteens.

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News Release | WISPIRG | Public Health

“Leading on Lead” Bill’s Signing Means Progress for Public Health

Governor Walker today signed the “Leading on Lead” bill, legislation to allow water utilities to help pay for removal of lead service lines – the top source of lead contamination of drinking water. It was introduced last year by Senator Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) and Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) with bipartisan support.

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News Release | WISPIRG | Consumer Protection

Rent-to-Own Carve-Outs Good for Predatory Lenders, Bad for Wisconsinites

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News Release | U.S. PIRG/U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Food

Bee-Killing Pesticides Found in Great Lakes Water

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Millennials in Motion

Millennials are less car-focused than older Americans and previous generations of young people, and their transportation behaviors continue to change in ways that reduce driving. Now is the time for the nation’s transportation policies to acknowledge, accommodate and support Millennials’ demands for a greater array of transportation choices.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Highway Boondoggles

Even though the Driving Boom is now over, state and federal governments continue to pour vast sums of money into the construction of new highways and expansion of old ones – at the expense of urgent needs such as road and bridge repairs, improvements in public transportation and other transportation priorities. Eleven proposed highway projects across the country – slated to cost at least $13 billion – exemplify the need for a fresh approach to transportation spending.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Public Health

Weak Medicine

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria infect more than 2 million people per year in the United States, causing more than 23,000 deaths. State governments, the FDA and other branches of the federal government should take steps to protect human health from the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can develop on factory farms.

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Fork in the Road

A new WISPIRG Foundation report offers a simple, common-sense way to reform transportation spending in Wisconsin.  The state is currently slated to spend nearly $3 billion on four unneeded highway expansion projects, such as the double decker expansion of I-94 in Milwaukee.  Meanwhile, local transportation infrastructure is in disrepair.  We could implement all the recommendations of the 2013 bi-partisan Transportation Policy and Finance Commission for local road repair, transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and the rehabilitation of state-owned roads, for the n

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Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Public Health

Ending the Abuse of Antibiotics in Factory Farms

While antibiotics today seem an indelible part of the lives of most Americans, even the earliest scientists responsible for their discovery warned of an Achilles heel that could one day threaten their ability to save lives.  In accepting his Nobel Prize, in fact, Sir Alexander Fleming himself cautioned that bacteria could develop resistance to penicillin. 

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Blog Post | Health Care, Solid Waste

Right to Repair is a simple way to cut health care costs | Nathan Proctor

Cost containment is is a critical first step in addressing the deep faults in our health care system - it's hard to image fixing problems of access if we continue to be charged $15 for a Tylenol pill or $1,000 for a toothbrush. It turns out that overpriced equipment repair helps add to those inflated costs.

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Blog Post | Transportation

The Trump Administration’s Flawed Reasons for Rolling Back Clean Car Standards | Matt Casale

The Trump administration is making some pretty outlandish claims to justify its roll back of the nation’s most effective program at fighting climate change. Asserting that stronger fuel economy standards make our roads less safe, the administration moved last week to weaken Obama-era clean car standards -- but their claims just aren’t true.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

We Join Leading Groups Urging SEC To Strengthen Weak Investor Best Interest Proposal | Ed Mierzwinski

We've joined leading consumer, civil rights, labor and older American organizations in a comment letter urging the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to strengthen its proposed "Regulation Best Interest" intended to ensure that all broker-dealers and other individuals and firms offering investment advice act do so in a fiduciary capacity, or in the best interest of their investor-clients. (Right now, it doesn't).

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

ID Theft & Privacy Checklists | Mike Litt

Today, we're releasing our revamped Identity Theft and Online Privacy resources.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Toxic triclosan in toothpaste? | Dev Gowda

A recent article in the LA Times revealed that a new study found that the toxic compound triclosan, which is commonly found in toothpaste as well as other consumer products such as cosmetics, children’s toys, and yoga mats, “could cause adverse effects on colonic inflammation and colon cancer.”

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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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