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

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

Consumer campaign calls on Wendy’s to “hold the antibiotics” from its beef supply chain

Consumer and public health advocacy organization U.S. PIRG Education Fund is calling on Wendy’s to stop serving beef raised with the routine use of antibiotics. The U.S. PIRG Education Fund and its partner groups are calling on the third-largest burger chain in the United States to follow the lead of its rival, McDonald’s, which recently announced a detailed antibiotics policy for its beef supply chain. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Food

California avocados second major recall in less than a week

Henry Avocado Corporation is recalling avocados potentially contaminated with the deadly listeria bacteria. Adam Garber, U.S. PIRG said in a statement: “We are barely getting a chance to breath between recalls."

> Keep Reading

Pages

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

European government agencies order Claire’s to stop selling asbestos-contaminated makeup products

In the wake of a recent U.S. PIRG study showing that U.S.-based retailer Claire’s is selling makeup contaminated with asbestos, a government agency in The Netherlands confirmed the results of U.S. PIRG’s study. The Dutch Health and Safety Authority (ILT) ordered Claire’s to remove several makeup products from Dutch store shelves after the agency’s lab testing confirmed that there is asbestos in two makeup products.

> Keep Reading
News Release | WISPIRG Foundation | Budget

New Report: Wisconsin Receives “A” for Government Spending Transparency Website

Wisconsin receives an “A” for its government spending transparency website, according to “Following the Money 2018: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” the eighth report of its kind by the WISPIRG Foundation and Frontier Group. Wisconsin’s spending transparency website ranked third best in the nation (tied with Minnesota), and was outperformed only by Ohio and West Virginia.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Public Health

Landmark victory: EU bans bee-killing pesticides

In a historic vote today, the European Union (EU) passed a continent-wide restriction on the use of bee-harming pesticides. U.S. states should pass similar bans to protect our bees and our food.

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

Grieving parents & health advocates urge Lowe’s to pull deadly paint strippers from store shelves

U.S. PIRG Education Fund joins Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, and the Natural Resources Defense Council in calling on Lowe’s to stop selling paint strippers made with methylene chloride and the chemical NMP.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | WISPIRG Foundation | Democracy

Big Money Dominates in Congressional Primaries

Our analysis of fund-raising data from 2014’s congressional primaries examines the way these dynamics are playing out state by state across the country. While some states show markedly more inequity than others, the picture painted by the data is of a primary money race where large donors carry more weight than ordinary Americans. Nationwide, just under two-thirds of all candidate contributions came from the largest donors (those giving over $1,000). And fewer than 5,500 large donors matched the primary contributions coming from at least 440,000 donors nationwide.

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading
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.

> Keep Reading
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 ne

> Keep Reading

Pages

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 | 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.

> 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
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.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Antibiotics

And then there were none: Sanderson Farms joins other big chicken producers in curbing antibiotic use

For the past year or so, there was only one holdout among the largest chicken producers in the U.S. on action to keep life-saving antibiotics working. Now there are none.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

Congressional investigation concludes that Equifax breach was 'entirely preventable'

The worst data breach in history could have been prevented with some basic security measures.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post

In reversal, judge rejects Monsanto's request to overturn landmark case linking man's cancer to Roundup

The high-profile legal case linking a man’s terminal cancer to Roundup has taken another twist.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Solid Waste

Fixing your device just got easier: Right to repair movement scores major win

Repairing your electronic device just got a little easier thanks to a seemingly unexpected source: The Library of Congress.

> 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