The Biggest Highway Boondoggles in the United States

Frontier Group and U.S. PIRG have released the fifth edition of its Highway Boondoggles report.

2 minute read

June 18, 2019, 2:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Marquam Bridge

Interstate 5, where it crosses the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, via the Marquam Bridge. | JPL Designs / Shutterstock

Frontier Group and U.S. PIRG today released "Highway Boondoggles 5" [pdf] to call attention to the "billions of dollars’ worth of new and expanded highways" proposed in the United States, which "often do little to reduce congestion or address real transportation challenges, while diverting scarce funding from infrastructure repairs and key transportation priorities."

The report also notes that car-based transportation is dangerous and is the nation's leading source of climate changing emissions.

The nine projects making the list for this year's annual report, with more detail included on the website announcing the new report and the report itself:

  • Complete 540, North Carolina ($2.2 billion)
  • North Houston Highway Improvement Project, Texas ($7+ billion)
  • High Desert Freeway, California ($8 billion)
  • I-75 Widening, Michigan ($1 billion)
  • Tri-State Tollway Widening, Illinois ($4 billion)
  • "Connecting Miami" Widening project, Florida ($802 million)
  • I-83 Widening, Pennsylvania ($300 million)
  • I-5 Rose Quarter Widening, Oregon ($450 million)
  • Interstate 81 Widening, Virginia ($2.2 billion)

As the antidote to wasteful and polluting highway projects, the report also suggests several varieties of transportation policies to help reverse the patterns of car dependency, like investing in public transit, adopting "fix-it-first" policies," and collecting and sharing better data and research on travel choices and preferences.

Joe Cortright picked up the news about the I-5 Rose Quarter project making the list. That project has been roundly criticized for questionable math about the project's reported benefits in congestion relief and pollution mitigation.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019 in U.S. PIRG Education Fund

stack of books

Planetizen’s Top Planning Books of 2023

The world is changing, and planning with it.

November 24, 2023 - Planetizen Team

Close-up of 'Red Line Subway Entry' sign with Braille below and train logo above text in Chicago, Illinois.

Chicago Red Line Extension Could Transform the South Side

The city’s transit agency is undertaking its biggest expansion ever to finally bring rail to the South Side.

November 24, 2023 - The Architect's Newspaper

Diagram of visibility at urban intersection.

How ‘Daylighting’ Intersections Can Save Lives

Eliminating visual obstructions can make intersections safer for all users.

November 27, 2023 - Strong Towns

Bus passengers boarding an orange Los Angeles Metro bus on Sunset Boulevard.

LA Pledges to Add Thousands of New Bus Stop Shelters

The city’s bus riders will finally get some relief from sun and rain.

November 30 - Urbanize Los Angeles

Green Paris Texas city limit sign with population.

How Paris, Texas Became a ‘Unicorn’ for Rural Transit

A robust coalition of advocates in the town of 25,000 brought together the funding and resources to launch a popular bus service that some residents see as a mobility lifeline—and a social club.

November 30 - Texas Monthly

Red San Diego Trolley light rail train at station with passengers walking on platform and Spanish-style dome building in background.

San Diego Trolley Nation’s Most Popular Light Rail

The system's ridership benefited from an extension project and free transit for youth.

November 30 - Axios

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

"Rethinking Commuter Rail" podcast & Intercity Bus E-News

Chaddick Institute at DePaul University

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.