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 | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Federal Highway Administration Quietly Acknowledges the Driving Boom is Over

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has very quietly acknowledged that the Driving Boom is over, which will help avoid wasting billions of dollars for unnecessary highway expansion.

> Keep Reading
Report | CoPIRG 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
News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

New Study: Traffic Data Does Not Support Current Plans to Spend $153 Million to Add Lanes on Colorado Route 470

A new report by the CoPIRG Foundation identifies state plans to add lanes on Route-470 as a national example of wasteful highway spending based on outdated assumptions. The study calls for instead investing scarce transportation dollars to better maintain existing roads and provide more transportation choices such as expanding transit and bike paths.

> Keep Reading
Report | CoPIRG 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
News Release | CoPIRG | Transportation

Bill to Increase Public Protections in Private Road Deals Vetoed by Governor Hickenlooper

Governor Hickenlooper vetoed a bi-partisan bill, SB-197, that would increase transparency and public protections in private road deals. The Legislature passed SB-197 in response to the immense public outcry after Colorado entered into a 50-year deal with a private company to build and manage parts of U.S. 36 including new toll lanes. 

> Keep Reading

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News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Denver Sees 9th Largest Drop in Driving Per Capita

A first-of-its-kind report by CoPIRG Foundation shows reduced driving miles and rates of car commuting in Colorado’s largest urbanized areas, Denver and Colorado Springs. In addition, both cities saw greater use of public transit and Denver saw greater use in biking.

> Keep Reading
News Release | CoPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Colorado Sees Double Digit Drop in Driving

Coloradans have cut their per-person driving miles by 11.4 percent since 2005, while the nation’s long term driving boom appears to have ended, according to a new report from the CoPIRG Foundation.  Colorado had the 6th largest drop of state and now ranks 14th for fewest vehicle miles traveled per person.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Transportation

Group pushes for details on high speed rail from Colorado Springs to Denver

Imagine a 35-minute trip to downtown Denver from downtown Colorado Springs on a train that hits a top speed of 250 mph. The landscape blurs by. The coffee is piping. And gas prices are not a bother. It's an image that - at least conceptually - Colorado Springs residents like.

Colorado Public Interest Research Group wants to take that message to the Colorado Department of Transportation and Gov. John Hickenlooper.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Transportation

CoPIRG Study Shows Coloradans Driving Less

According to a new study released by the Colorado Public Interest Research Group, the number of miles being driven by Americans is on the decline for the eighth year in a row.

> Keep Reading

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