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

Video Blog | Consumer Protection

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: The retirement industry is a minefield -- but here’s the answer

In this week’s episode of “Last Week Tonight,” host John Oliver called out three main problems hurting consumers when it comes to retirement: First, financial advisers aren’t currently required to work in their clients’ best interest. Second, high fees compound over time. Third, actively managed investment funds aren’t the answer. 

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S.PIRG | Consumer Protection

Strong National Payday Rule Could Save Consumers Billions

Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released its draft high cost small dollar lending (payday and auto title) loan rule for public comment. 

> Keep Reading

LATimes: Obama's consumer protection legacy defined by aggressive agency

[This weekend, the Los Angele Times chronicled President Obama's consumer protection record, with heavy emphasis on the history and fight over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):]

"[...] Launched in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the bureau is one of President Obama’s signature accomplishments. [...] “I think you have to consider him a tremendous president for consumers,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group."

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Transportation

A World Without Carbon Pollution – Closer Than You Might Think | John Olivieri

For many, a world without carbon pollution seems like a distant utopia. To some, this even seems unobtainable. The size and scope of the challenge before us can be daunting, yet, there is good news -- a world without carbon pollution is closer than you think.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

As CFPB Escalates Drive Toward Protections, Study Finds CFPB Enforcement Works | Ed Mierzwinski

This month the CFPB issued its proposed rule prohibiting class action bans in small-print mandatory arbitration clauses; in June it is expected to release its high-cost small dollar lending (payday and auto title loan) proposed rule. Meanwhile, as CFPB's industry opponents hide behind astroturf front groups and Congressional opponents use backdoor attacks, a law professor has released a major report finding that "from its inception [in 2011] through 2015 the agency had a 122-and-0 track record in its publicly announced enforcement actions" and that 93% (over $10.5 billion) of funds recovered for consumers have been for deceptive practices -- "[f]ar from a novel legal theory."

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | MoPIRG | Financial Reform

New Post-Mortgage-Crisis Rules Will Protect Homebuyers and Homeowners

On Friday, January 10, new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rules will go into effect that will help protect homeowners and homebuyers from the mortgage abuses that led to the housing crisis.

> Keep Reading
News Release | MoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Report Shows St. Louis and Kansas City Driving Less, Using Alternatives More

A first-of-its-kind report by MoPIRG Foundation shows reduced rates of car commuting in Missouri’s urbanized areas—including the Saint Louis and Kansas City —and increased use of alternative transportation.

> Keep Reading
News Release | MoPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Toys with lead, toxic chemicals, choking hazards found on store shelves

Dangerous or toxic toys can still be found on America’s store shelves, according to Missouri Public Interest Research Group’s 28th annual Trouble in Toyland report.  The survey of hazardous toys found that despite recent progress, consumers must still be wary when shopping this holiday season.

> Keep Reading

Credit bureau complaints bring relief for 30 percent

The Missouri Public Interest Research Group Foundation studied the 10,000 complaints filed against credit bureaus since the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau began collecting them in October of 2012.

> Keep Reading
News Release | MoPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Report: In Missouri, Experian Gets Big Complaints

A new report by MoPIRG Foundation found that the most complained-about credit reporting agency in Missouri is Experian, and that Missouri ranks #30 nationally in credit report complaints per 100,000 residents.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | Seeking Safer Packaging and As You Sow | Consumer Protection

Seeking Safer Packaging: Ranking Packaged Food Companies on BPA

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used in the epoxy lining of canned foods and beverages and in polycarbonate, a hard, clear plastic. The chemical mimics estrogen in the body and researchers have found links between BPA and numerous health problems including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and metabolic disorders.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Tax Shell Game: The Taxpayer Cost of Offshore Corporate Havens

Many of the largest corporations in our country hide profits made in the United States in offshore shell companies and sham headquarters in order to avoid paying billions in federal taxes. The result is massive losses in revenue for the U.S. Treasury – which ultimately must be made up by taxpayers.  

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG | Transportation

Private Roads Public Costs: The Facts About Toll Road Privatization and How to Protect the Public

A growing number of states are considering arrangements in which a private operator provides an up-front payoff or builds a new road in return for decades of escalating toll receipts. The report assesses these deals and identifies a number of problems.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG | Safe Energy

The High Cost of Nuclear Power: Why America Should Choose a Clean Energy Future Over New Nuclear Reactors

Nuclear power is among the most costly approaches to solving America’s energy problems. Per dollar of investment, clean energy solutions – such as energy efficiency and renewable resources – deliver far more energy than nuclear power.

> Keep Reading
Report | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Trouble In Toyland: The 23rd Annual Survey of Toy Safety

The 2008 "Trouble in Toyland" report is the 23rd annual Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. This report provides safety guidelines for parents when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards. We visited numerous toy stores and other retailers to find potentially dangerous toys and identify trends in toy safety. This year, we focused specifically on toys that contain lead and phthalates in our research.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

The CFPB is 4 years old and has a lot to show for it! | Ed Mierzwinski

Tuesday, July 21, marks four years to the day since the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opened its doors to protect consumers and make financial markets work. We've summarized some of the ways CFPB works for you on a new web page.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

How the CFPB’s Data Keeps Getting Better and Better | Mike Litt

As the CFPB turns 4 years old on July 21, here is some information on how it works for you and how we at PIRG use its data to produce reports, such as our new report on mortgage complaints to the CFPB. We've also got some photos from the Americans for Financial Reform "CFPB at 4" event.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

The More I Hear About OPM Data Breach, The Less I Know, Except This: It's Bad | Ed Mierzwinski

Was it 4 million, 14 million or 18 million records breached (how many times) (likely) by Chinese hackers? Whose fault was it? The USOPM director says no one's. Really? Perhaps the worst data breach ever raises lots of questions, but I haven't heard any good answers. Federal employees, their families, their friends and their neighbors -- because all of them could be victims -- deserve better answers, just as they deserve better service than USOPM's credit monitoring provider is giving them.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Hill Threats to CFPB Escalate As CFPB Protects Consumers, Servicemembers | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, the House Appropriations Committee, at the behest of both Wall Street and predatory lenders seeking to run amok, will vote to eliminate the CFPB's independence from the politicized appropriations process. Meanwhile, over at the CFPB, important work to protect consumers, including servicemembers, from unfair and predatory financial practices continues.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Data Breach Here, Data Breach There, Data Breach Everywhere! | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED 10 June Re DHS Breach: If you shop with plastic, have health insurance, pay taxes, work for the federal government, or (fill in blank) you’re at risk of a data breach. And with so much information about you already available on the Internet, it’s best not to select easy-search security questions like “Where were you born?” or answers like “Pizza.” What’s your best defense against identity theft? No, it isn’t credit monitoring, it’s a security freeze.

> Keep Reading

Pages

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 MoPIRG’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