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

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Boeing Max planes have ‘optional’ safety mechanisms

Newly-revealed details by the New York Times about of the crash of two Boeing 737 Max 8 planes may stun even the most hardened observer. The planes lacked a safety feature that may have warned pilots about problems because it was not required and Boeing charged airlines extra to include it. Adam Garber, U.S. PIRG Education Fund Consumer Watchdog issued the following statement.

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News Release | US PIRG | Public Health

New Report: More than two-thirds of states examined receive failing grades for efforts to reduce lead in school drinking water

A total of 22 states earned an “F” grade for their performance in eliminating lead from school drinking water, according to a new study by Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. Of the 31 states tested, Illinois was the only one (along with the District of Columbia) to receive a mark above the C range.  These results come from the the second edition of the groups’ Get the Lead Out report, which grades state policies for protecting kids from exposure to this dangerous neurotoxin.

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News Release | Solid Waste

After warning companies that "Void Warranty if Removed" are illegal, the FTC is expanding their investigation into anti-repair practices

This announcement comes after the FTC sent warning letters last April to six companies saying their "void warranty if removed" stickers violated consumer rights under Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act. A subsequent survey in October by U.S. PIRG Education Fund, "Warranties in the Void," showed that such anti-repair activity was even more widespread. The study surveyed 50 members of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers and found the 45 would void warranties for independent repair. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Antibiotics

EPA proposes use of 650,000 pounds of antibiotics a year on citrus fields

Public health and environmental groups urge EPA to deny antibiotic use on citrus.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Menards joins other home improvement stores in ditching deadly paint strippers

 

Dozens have died from the chemical fumes of toxic paint strippers sold in stores across America, but now Menards is joining other home improvement retailers in attempting to stop that number from growing.

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News Release | MoPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Prices of common medications can vary by hundreds of dollars

While many Americans struggle to afford their prescription drugs, MoPIRG Foundation’s survey of retail prices of commonly-prescribed medications found patients can save hundreds, even thousands of dollars in some cases by shopping around at pharmacies within their communities.

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

Popular weed killer found in top beer and wine brands

Many beers and wines sold in the U.S. contain the weed killer glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, according to a new report by U.S. PIRG Education Fund. In Glyphosate pesticide in beer and wine, U.S. PIRG tested 20 beers, wines and hard cider, including several organic brands, for glyphosate/Roundup and found that all but one contained the harmful chemical.

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

Investigation of E. Coli outbreak in lettuce reveals need for more protections

The FDA investigation reinforces that our food isn't nearly as safe as it should be. This time, more than 60 people got sick from salads, probably because a company failed to sanitize the water used to grow its romaine lettuce.

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News Release | MoPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Questionable lending drives Americans to record auto debt

The amount of money Americans owe on their cars is now at an all-time high -- up 75 percent since the end of 2009. Americans’ rising indebtedness for cars raises concerns about the financial future of millions of households as lenders extend credit to more and more Americans without the ability to repay, according to a new U.S. PIRG report.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG

Remembering John Dingell

A personal remembrance from Katie Murtha, who serves as vice president of federal government affairs for U.S. PIRG and Environment America, both members of The Public Interest Network. Katie was formerly chief of staff for U.S. Rep. John Dingell, who passed away Thursday.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Financial Reform

Shining A Light on Consumer Problems:

Our report, Shining A Light on Consumer Problems: The Case for Public Access to the CFPB’s Financial Complaints Database, details why it is important that the highly successful Consumer Financial Protection Bureau database of over one million consumer complaints remain open to the public, so consumers, researchers and others can study the financial marketplace.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Electric Buses: Clean Transportation for Healthier Neighborhoods and Cleaner Air

Buses play a key role in in our nation’s transportation system, carrying millions of children daily to and from school and moving millions of Americans each day around our cities. Buses reduce the number of individual cars on our roads, make our communities more livable and sustainable, and provide transportation options for people of all ages and abilities. Yet, the majority of America’s buses remain dirty – burning fossil fuels like diesel that put the health of our children and communities at risk and contribute to global warming.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Accidents Waiting to Happen: Coal Ash Ponds Put Our Waterways at Risk

Clean water is essential to America’s health and welfare. Our lakes, rivers, streams and creeks provide us with water to drink, add character to our most beautiful natural places, and give us places to fish and swim. Unfortunately, our waterways are under constant threat of pollution from dangerous facilities located along their banks. These facilities are accidents waiting to happen.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

In Your Face

The negative health effects of asbestos are well-known. Most people may associate asbestos contamination with the workplace or decades-old construction material, but alarmingly, recent media reports have found asbestos contamination in kids' makeup from popular stores. U.S. PIRG Education Fund (PIRG) decided to do its own asbestos testing at an accredited laboratory.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Plugging In

The adoption of large numbers of electric vehicles (EVs) offers many benefits for cities, including cleaner air and the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Electric vehicles are far cleaner than gasoline-powered cars, with lower greenhouse gas emissions and lower emissions of the pollutants that contribute to smog and particulate matter.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 | 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
Blog Post | Antibiotics

Really?! The Trump administration is allowing agribusiness to spray antibiotics on half a million acres of citrus

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has decided that the economic benefits of spraying antibiotics on millions of citrus trees outweighs the cost of potential antibiotic resistance.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Public Health

Home Depot misses deadline to get toxic paint strippers off store shelves

Dozens of people have died. Yet in January, Home Depot was still selling the products that led to their deaths.

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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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