Stop Highway Boondoggles

More and more of us are moving off the roads. 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. 

It's time to shift our transportation priorities

These days, more and more of us are moving off the roads. We’re driving less on average than we have in years past — driving peaked in America in 2007. Since then, the Millennial Generation has led the way, with more people walking, biking and taking transit. In fact, in 2014 more people used public transportation than they had since 1956! Meanwhile, new technologies and other options, such as bike-sharing, are making it easier for people to rely less on cars.

Yet, despite these well-documented changes in transportation trends, we’re still spending roughly $27 billion expanding roads and building new highways every year. Meanwhile, other needs — from expanding public transportation to critical bridge repairs — go unmet. At a time when one in nine bridges in America are considered “structurally deficient,” these confused priorities put millions of Americans in danger every single day.

Across the country there are countless proposed highway projects that are not just expensive — they’re outright boondoggles. Some of these projects were proposed decades ago, and address problems that no longer exist. Others don’t take into account the fact that more and more Americans want —  and are using —  other options to get around. And more have serious negative impacts on the surrounding communities that undercut their value. 

Our list of 11 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. 

The boondoggles we are working to stop include:

Washington: $3.1 billion to $4.1 billion — Seattle is building a massive tunnel under the city that, by the state’s own estimates, would increase delays downtown compared to a cheaper, more transit-focused plan. Meanwhile, the tunneling machine has been stuck underground for more than a year, only one-tenth of the way through the tunnel. 

Washington: $3 billion — A rebranding of two old-fashioned highway expansion projects into the “Puget Sound Gateway” at a time when the state has declared that driving is likely to stagnate for decades. 

Michigan: $2.7 billion — A highway expansion project based on traffic data compiled before Detroit’s population dropped following the recession, it would eliminate eleven pedestrian bridges that connect two now-rebounding neighborhoods.

Illinois and Indiana: $1.3 billion to $2.8 billion — A new privatized toll road proposed primarily to speed freight trucks across the Midwest may instead charge tolls too high to attract trucks, and will likely require hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies.

CAMPAIGN UPDATE: Newly elected Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has issued an executive order suspending all new interstate infrastructure projects until they undergo a review. 

Texas: $1.5 billion — A nine-mile, riverfront highway through the heart of Dallas would have minimal impact on congestion.

Wisconsin: $800 million  — An existing highway through Milwaukee would be rebuilt as an eight-lane route, despite declining traffic counts and objections from local officials and citizen groups.

North Carolina: $400 million to $600 million — A massive highway expansion project is planned for a highway which is no longer used enough to justify the expansion. The proposed project would destroy homes and businesses in a mature, livable neighborhood.

Ohio: $331 million — A $100-million-a-mile road has been proposed for a community where driving has been stagnant for years, and where residents prefer repairs to existing roads and investment in transit improvements.

Maryland: $234 million — A conversion to a freeway based on outdated traffic projections, while the governor claims he's uncertain whether the state can afford popular expansions of Metro and other overcrowded transit.

California: $200 million — A proposed extension of a toll road that is already in danger of default because of lower-than-projected traffic.

CAMPAIGN UPDATE: The San Diego Water Board voted 6-0 in March to uphold a previous decision to deny the Toothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) a permit to build a 5.5 mile extension to their existing 241 toll road.

Georgia: $49 million to $100 million — A new road northwest of Savannah is intended to relieve traffic from an existing state highway, where traffic is lower than projections. 

Moving America forward 

It’s time to put an end to boondoggles like these, 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 | Higher Ed

Consumer, Student Education Groups Defend CFPB To Congress | Chris Lindstrom

Nearly 60 student, consumer, and education groups signed on to this letter that was sent up to the Hill on Monday, February 13.  It calls for the CFPB to remain a strong, independent agency, so it can protect student loan borrowers (and taxpayers) from predatory lending tactics.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Student, Education, and Consumer Groups Defend CFPB To Congress

On February 13, nearly 60 local, state and national student advocacy, professional, consumer, educational, faith and other organizations sent a letter to Congressional leaders expressing "strong support for the crucial work the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) does on behalf of student loan borrowers." The "borrower-focused" letter also urged Congress "to ensure the agency remains well-positioned to solve borrowers’ problems, which includes protecting the Bureau’s single-Director structure and its independent funding, and maintaining Director Richard Cordray until his term ends.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Court to Rehear CFPB’s Constitutionality

Statement by Mike Landis, Litigation Director at U.S. PIRG, about today’s decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear en banc the panel ruling against the CFPB’s independent leadership. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Unilever: Go Toxic-Free

On Valentine’s Day, consumer groups thank Unilever for great first step in disclosing fragrance ingredients and call on personal care giant to go toxic-free.

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Blog Post | Health Care

PIRG applauds decisions blocking health insurance mega-mergers | Jesse Ellis O'Brien

This week, in a big win for consumers, a district court took action to block the proposed merger between health insurance giants Anthem and Cigna. This decision follows a ruling last month that blocked the proposed merger of two more of the nation’s biggest for-profit health insurers, Aetna and Humana. These decisions come after months of work by U.S. PIRG and a broad coalition of consumer and health care groups, urging close scrutiny of the mergers from state and federal regulators and raising questions and concerns about the potential impact of the mergers.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Court to Rehear CFPB’s Constitutionality

Statement by Mike Landis, Litigation Director at U.S. PIRG, about today’s decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear en banc the panel ruling against the CFPB’s independent leadership. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Unilever: Go Toxic-Free

On Valentine’s Day, consumer groups thank Unilever for great first step in disclosing fragrance ingredients and call on personal care giant to go toxic-free.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

Starbucks Ditches Routine Use of Medically Important Antibiotics in Poultry

Starbucks announced a commitment today to serve only poultry raised without the routine use of medically important antibiotics in U.S. stores by 2020 after dialogue with Green Century Capital Management, a leader in environmentally responsible investing. The Seattle-based chain’s commitment may help push the meat industry further away from overusing life-saving medicines.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Executive Orders Threaten CFPB, Other Critical Wall Street Reforms

The President is expected to sign Executive Orders today designed to re-rig the financial system by dismantling critical Wall Street reforms, including to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Our statement in opposition is below.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

PIRG, Consumer Advocates Join Fight to Protect CFPB in Court

Today, U.S. PIRG, Americans for Financial Reform, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Center for Responsible Lending, Self-Help Credit Union and Maeve Elise Brown, who chairs the CFPB Consumer Advisory Board, filed a motion with the DC Circuit, US Court of Appeals for leave to intervene in PHH vs. CFPB, a lawsuit challenging the CFPB's single-director structure. Today, Senator Sherrod Brown (OH) and Rep. Maxine Waters (CA), ranking members of the Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committees, also filed a similar motion. Earlier this week, 17 state Attorneys General filed a similar motion on behalf of their citizens. 

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Result | Democracy

Delivering one million petitions to President Obama on dark money

U.S. PIRG joined a broad coalition to deliver one million petitions from Americans, including U.S. PIRG members and supporters, calling on President Obama to shine a light on dark money, or secret political spending.

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30 years of toy safety

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Result | Democracy

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Result | Public Health

Convincing McDonald’s and Subway to protect public health

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Result | Higher Ed

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Student, Education, and Consumer Groups Defend CFPB To Congress

On February 13, nearly 60 local, state and national student advocacy, professional, consumer, educational, faith and other organizations sent a letter to Congressional leaders expressing "strong support for the crucial work the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) does on behalf of student loan borrowers." The "borrower-focused" letter also urged Congress "to ensure the agency remains well-positioned to solve borrowers’ problems, which includes protecting the Bureau’s single-Director structure and its independent funding, and maintaining Director Richard Cordray until his term ends.

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Report | NHPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Predatory Loans & Predatory Loan Complaints

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Letter: Protecting the FTC from Special Interest Attacks

While much of our work has been in defense of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), we also support the efforts of the over-100 year old Federal Trade Commission.

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Report | NHPIRG Education Fund and the Frontier Group | Tax

Following the Money 2016

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Why You Should Get Security Freezes Before Your Information is Stolen

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How To Avoid Identity Theft

How To Use a Security Freeze

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Pages

Blog Post | Higher Ed

Consumer, Student Education Groups Defend CFPB To Congress | Chris Lindstrom

Nearly 60 student, consumer, and education groups signed on to this letter that was sent up to the Hill on Monday, February 13.  It calls for the CFPB to remain a strong, independent agency, so it can protect student loan borrowers (and taxpayers) from predatory lending tactics.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Health Care

PIRG applauds decisions blocking health insurance mega-mergers | Jesse Ellis O'Brien

This week, in a big win for consumers, a district court took action to block the proposed merger between health insurance giants Anthem and Cigna. This decision follows a ruling last month that blocked the proposed merger of two more of the nation’s biggest for-profit health insurers, Aetna and Humana. These decisions come after months of work by U.S. PIRG and a broad coalition of consumer and health care groups, urging close scrutiny of the mergers from state and federal regulators and raising questions and concerns about the potential impact of the mergers.

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Blog Post | Democracy

Call your representative and senators every day. Here's how. | Andre Delattre

There’s a lot unfolding in Washington, D.C., right now, and you may be wondering: “What can I do to voice my concerns?”

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

This week, CFPB Sues TCF Bank for overdraft schemes and loan servicer Navient for "failing" students | Ed Mierzwinski

Despite an escalation of threats to exterminate the Consumer FInancial Protection Bureau, CFPB continues to protect consumers well. This week it sued TCF Bank over deceptive overdraft marketing schemes and it sued Navient, the student loan servicer and Sallie Mae spinoff, for "failing" students at every step of the repayment process. The TCF complaint notes that its CEO brazenly named his boat "Overdraft."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Report Finds 1 In 4 Consumers Feel "Threatened" By Debt Collector Tactics | Ed Mierzwinski

We joined Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray and Washington, DC Attorney General Karl Racine for release of new CFPB data on debt collector abuses. Fully 1 in 4 consumers feel "threatened" by abusive, possibly illegal, debt collector tactics. The release also included an emphasis on problems with the "debt buyer" industry, comprised of firms that buy older, uncollected debt for as little as less than a penny on the dollar.

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