Nine Highway Expansions Identified as Worst Boondoggles of 2018

In a new report, U.S. PIRG and the Frontier Group describe nine costly highway projects amounting to $30 billion in their fourth annual "Highway Boondoggles" report. All share the theme of induced travel demand.

July 2, 2018, 10:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

"Nine proposed highway expansion projects across the country – slated to cost $30 billion – exemplify the need for a fresh approach to transportation planning and spending," write researchers Gideon Weissman, Policy Analyst in Frontier Group’s Boston office, and Matt Casale, Director of the Highway Boondoggles Campaign for the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, in the executive summary of the 48-page report [pdf] released June 26. See base of this post for links to the three prior reports.

As America considers how to meet its infrastructure needs in a fiscally responsible way, the nation cannot afford expensive “boondoggle” projects that don’t meet our most important transportation needs. 

And this year's nine winners are:

While the $30 billion may bring initial congestion relief, Weissman and Casale write that the expanded highways will draw "new drivers to the roads, often resulting in a rapid return to the congested conditions the expansion project was originally supposed to solve. The return to congestion after a road expansion is so predictable it has been called the 'Fundamental Law of Road Congestion.'" 

A related article in Strong Towns by Rachel Quednau, who cites the new study, highlights the "fundamental law" noted above, aka induced (travel) demand, by describing "two key reasons why the conversation on congestion is so misguided and why the proposed solution is no solution at all."

"The real question is: how do we want our congestion? Do we want it in two lanes, four lanes, or eight lanes?” asked Strong Towns president, Chuck Marohn.

Past coverage of U.S. PIRG/Frontier Group reports on highway boondoggles by Planetizen:

More from U.S. PIRG/Frontier Group:

Hat tip to David Orr.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018 in Frontier Group

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