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

States, DC Stepping Up To Protect Student Loan Borrowers | Chris Lindstrom

With the U.S. Department of Education failing to protect students from unfair practices, the states and the District of Columbia have begun to enact student loan servicing protections. Here's an overview of what's happening in the "laboratories of democracy."

> Keep Reading
News Release | Public Health, Antibiotics

McDonald’s Changes Meat Supply Guidelines to Stem Spread of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

In response to the health risks posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, McDonald’s has announced it is implementing new targets for cutting antibiotic use in the global chicken supply, and plans to expand its commitment to fewer antibiotics in pork and beef.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

Federal Reserve Questions Administration, Congressional Rollbacks of Wall Street Reform That Threaten CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

Recently released minutes of the July meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, comprised of Fed governors and regional Fed Bank presidents, show its concern that Wall Street reform rollbacks proposed by Congress, Treasury Department and the White House could allow "a reemergence of the types of risky practices that contributed to the crisis." Meanwhile, Fed vice-chair Stanley Fisher repeated his warnings that risks from the proposed rollbacks were "mind-boggling."

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

Well, Well, Wells Fargo! Poster Child for Defending CFPB, Dodd-Frank. | Ed Mierzwinski

As the big Wall Street banks, payday lenders and other opponents of consumer protection intensify pressure on Congress to weaken financial reform and gut the CFPB like a fish, numerous reports of further Wells Fargo malfeasance serve as a warning that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the rest of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act are needed more than ever.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB Finds So-Called Overdraft Protection Costs Some $450/Year | Ed Mierzwinski

This week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rolled out draft "Know Before You Owe" disclosures for banks marketing so-called "Standard Overdraft Protection," a controversial product that requires consumers to "opt-in" for the "privilege" of overdrafting debit and ATM transactions for a so-called convenience fee averaging $34. It also  released a study that finds that at-risk consumers who opt-in pay $450/year more in fees than other at-risk consumers.

> Keep Reading

Pages

News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Statement On CFPB's Rule Restoring Rights To Take Wrongdoers To Court

Financial wrongdoers have long used mandatory arbitration clauses buried in small-print, take-it-or-leave-it contracts to prevent consumers from banding together to have their day in court. Our statement on the CFPB's important new rule restoring consumer rights to join class actions follows.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Health Care

Our Statement on Senate Health Care Bill

Statement by Jesse Ellis O’Brien, MoPIRG Health Care Advocate, on public release of the “Better Care Reconciliation Act.” 

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Statement Commending New Military Consumer Enforcement Act

Read our statement commending the introduction of the Military Consumer Enforcement Act by Sens. Jack Reed (RI), Sherrod Brown (OH) and others. These senators have the right idea-- strengthen the CFPB’s ability to protect servicemembers, veterans and their families. Why do others want to weaken the CFPB?

> Keep Reading
News Release | Consumer Protection

REPORT: DEBT COLLECTION ABUSES LEADING SOURCE OF SERVICE MEMBER AND VETERAN COMPLAINTS TO CFPB

Debt collection abuses were the leading source (32%) of 44,000 service member complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to a new report. Further, legislation on the House floor this week intended to dismantle the CFPB would place service members, veterans and their families in “financial harm’s way,” thereby threatening unit preparedness.

> Keep Reading
News Release | U.S.PIRG & National Taxpayers' Union Foundation | Budget

Unlikely Allies Offer Billions in Deficit Reduction Recommendations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the midst of the federal budget process, lawmakers remain divided along partisan lines on how to prioritize taxpayer dollars and how to address the fiscal gap between revenues and expenditures. A new report released today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) and National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) provides our elected leaders with some much-needed common ground for progress. Suggesting over $260 billion of deficit reduction recommendations with appeal from across the political spectrum, “Toward Common Ground: Bridging the Political Divide with Deficit Reduction Recommendations for Congress” should act as a roadmap for lowering the deficit without compromising our national priorities.

> Keep Reading

Pages

Report | MoPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland 2014

Among the toys surveyed this year, we found numerous choking hazards and five toys with concentrations of toxics exceeding federal standards. In addition to reporting on potentially hazardous products found in stores in 2014, this installment of the report describes the potential hazards in toys and children’s products.

> Keep Reading
Report | MoPIRG Foundation and Demos | Democracy

The Dominance of Big Money in the 2014 Congressional Elections

In 2014, large donors accounted for the vast majority of all individual federal election contributions this cycle, just as they have in previous elections. Seven of every 10 individual contribution dollars to the federal candidates, parties, PACs and Super PACs that were active in the 2013-2014 election cycle came from donors who gave $200 or more. Candidates alone got 84 percent of their individual contributions from large donors.

> Keep Reading
Report | MoPIRG and Consumers Union | Public Health

Prescription For Change

Our September 2014 survey of physicians paints a grim picture of the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant infections. The overwhelming majority of surveyed doctors reported that one or more of their patients had been diagnosed with a presumed or confirmed case of a multi-drug resistant bacterial infection in the past twelve months. They also expressed concern about the use of antibiotics in livestock production facilities on healthy animals in order to promote growth and prevent disease.

> Keep Reading
Report | MoPIRG 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 | MoPIRG 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

Pages

Blog Post | Financial Reform

Sloppy Credit Bureaus, Sketchy Credit Doctors Slammed by Trifecta of CFPB, State AGs and Consumer Lawyers | Ed Mierzwinski

In the news this month are several successful efforts to improve credit report accuracy, compensate the victims of credit bureau malfeasance and also to bring some credit repair doctors to heel. Did it take a village? No, it took a combination of strong consumer laws, a strong CFPB, tough state attorneys general working on a bi-partisan basis and, finally, consumer attorneys engaged in private enforcement of the laws as another line of defense. For markets to work fairly, consumers need all these levels of protection.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Antibiotics

Burger King Takes Action on Antibiotics, Sanderson Farms Takes a Back Seat | Matthew Wellington

Last week another major restaurant took action to protect antibiotics, and a major laggard in the meat industry received a much-needed reality check.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

PHH v. CFPB: The Latest Attack on the Consumer Bureau | Michael Landis

Tomorrow, Wednesday, May 24, the full D.C. Circuit will hear oral argument in PHH v. CFPB—a case that could have a significant impact on the work of the most effective consumer protection agency that we have. Check out this blog and new short video from PIRG Litigation Director Mike Landis on why the idea of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau needs no defense, only more defenders.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

#KickTheCan: BPA still found in many grocery stores’ canned foods | Dev Gowda

We’re all told to watch out for BPA in drinking bottles and baby products. But how about BPA in the cans that contain our food? A recent study by Center for Environmental Health (CEH) reveals that the toxic chemical BPA is readily found in canned foods. BPAs are often used in the liners of canned food to keep the aluminum from interacting with the food.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Financial Reform

Banks Cook Books To Promote Wrong Choice Act, Attack CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

Today the House Financial Services Committee takes up the so-called Financial Choice Act, which we call the Wrong Choice Act, to repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 and leave the CFPB an unrecognizable husk incapable of protecting consumers. Some 52 state bank associations urged support of the bill, based on a "cook-the-history-books" analysis of bank consolidation, which has not increased since 2010, even though they make the claim based on preposterous math.

> 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