- The United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) Education Fund has identified nine highway expansion projects it considers wasteful in its fifth Highway Boondoggles report. The projects — which will collectively cost $25 billion — are located in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.
- The report, developed with Frontier Group, suggests new and expanded highway projects are expensive to build and maintain, don't solve traffic congestion and damage communities and the environment.
- It recommends all levels of government halt or downsize highway expansion projects and instead invest in other transportation solutions, such as public transit and repairs to existing infrastructure. It also recommends increased research and data collection to better track shifts in how people travel.
The report claims that expanding highways merely sets in motion societal behaviors that cause roads to become congested again. Expansions can encourage people to drive more, which can lead to more pollution from vehicle emissions. Plus, more roads mean more ongoing maintenance, which is hard to fund when governments already are strapped for cash.
The report also highlights how highway expansions can harm communities by forcing the relocation of homes and businesses. A highway project in the Houston area threatens to displace people from about 170 single-family homes and more than 1,000 multi-family units, in addition to 330 businesses, two schools and four houses of worship. Low-income communities tend to experience displacement and other negative impacts from highway projects more than wealthy communities.
While abandoning projects that are already in progress might seem counterintuitive, the report recommends it in many cases. Stopping a highway expansion plan before it reaches completion could save money and resources while preventing community damage. The report includes examples of expansion projects that were canceled — in Wisconsin and Florida, for example — and insights on why the communities are better off.