The Nation’s Most Wasteful Highway Projects

The 2023 Highway Boondoggles report is here.

2 minute read

November 10, 2023, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Excavator parked on side of highway under construction with overpass bridge in background.

Enrique del Barrio / Adobe Stock

The Highway Boondoggles report, an annual release from the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), highlights the most “wasteful or unnecessary” highway projects in the nation. According to the report, “In FY 2023, as of the end of May, states had committed $26.6 billion in highway and bridge formula funds to support over 19,300 new projects, on top of the $53.5 billion invested in more than 29,000 projects in FY 2022.” The funding comes in part from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

The seven projects listed in the report are projected to cost over $15.9 billion and, the report adds, “will harm communities and the environment, while likely failing to achieve goals such as reducing congestion or improving safety.” 

The report notes that “Expanding a highway sets off a chain reaction of societal decisions that ultimately leads to the highway becoming congested again – often in only a short time.” Road expansion also creates long-term costs. “In addition to the one-time costs of construction, these projects will cost taxpayers billions of dollars over the years to maintain, saddling future generations with expensive maintenance needs.”

The report makes recommendations for reducing auto dependency and downsizing unnecessary projects, advising that transportation agencies should “Adopt fix-it-first policies that reorient transportation funding away from highway expansion and toward repair of existing roads and investment in other transportation options.”

Thursday, November 9, 2023 in PIRG

Aerial view of Eugene, Oregon at dusk with mountains in background.

Eugene Ends Parking Minimums

In a move that complies with a state law aimed at reducing transportation emissions, Eugene amended its parking rules to eliminate minimum requirements and set maximum parking lot sizes.

December 3, 2023 - NBC 16

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, 2023 - Texas Monthly

SMall backyard cottage ADU in San Diego, California.

San Diegans at Odds Over ‘Granny Towers’

A provision in the city’s ADU ordinance allows developers to build an essentially unlimited number of units on single-family lots.

November 29, 2023 - CALmatters

Mission Bay and Potrero Hill

San Francisco Approves Zoning Reforms to Avoid ‘Builder’s Remedy’

The county board of supervisors voted to approve zoning changes that bring it closer to compliance with state housing mandates.

2 hours ago - Reason

Aerial view of housingin Las Vegas, Nevada with desert mountains in background.

Where Are Millennials Moving to?

As the housing crisis rages on, four U.S. states are seeing high levels of new migration from young and middle-aged workers.

4 hours ago - Yahoo Finance

Aerial view of houses against partly cloudy sky in San Mateon County, California.

California Cities Cite Historic Preservation to Block Development

Are some cities using historic designations disingenuously?

4 hours ago - Mercury News

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.