PIRG Releases Third Highway Boondoggles Report

A new report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the Frontier Group indicates that highway boondoggles have been getting bigger, more costly, with the benefits more limited. Nine projects are analyzed in "Highway Boondoggles 3."
April 20, 2017, 12pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Lev Kropotov

Since the press release from the report was issued by the Illinois PIRG, the first boondoggle described is also the most costly, the proposed State Routes 53/120 toll road in Lake CountyApproved by the llinois Toll Highway Authority Board in December 2015, it is expected to cost $2.3 billion.

“This 23-mile toll road will accelerate urban sprawl, induce more traffic on local roads and have a negative impact on the surrounding environment. It’s time to reassess our priorities when it comes to big highway projects or we’ll never solve our transportation issues,” said Abraham Scarr, Director at the Illinois PIRG Education Fund.

Livable Lake County, a coalition of organizations, has been the main source of resistance to the state route 53/120 extension project.

Among the other eight boondoggles studied listed in the online description and the executive summary of the 59-page report [pdf]:

  • I-4 “Beyond the Ultimate,” Florida, $2.2 billion – The construction of tolled express lanes along 40 miles of highway has been pitched, in part, as a way to avoid bottlenecks created by another $2 billion highway expansion project now underway in Orlando.
  • I-75 North Truck Lanes, Georgia, $2 billion – Construction of the nation’s first long-haul, truck-only lanes would represent a giveaway to the trucking industry, while undermining a rail-based approach to freight movement in Georgia that is intended to get trucks off the roads.
  • I-405 Widening, California, $1.9 billion – Widening one of the nation’s busiest stretches of Interstate highway in Orange County would draw new traffic to the road, create new bottlenecks, and replicate the failed approach to congestion relief of an earlier I-405 widening project in Los Angeles.

All nine "are but a sampling of many questionable highway projects nationwide that could cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars to build, and even more money over the course of upcoming decades to maintain."

Previous Highway Boondoggles reports in 2014 and 2016 identified 23 dubious highway expansion projects costing an estimated $37 billion that merited additional scrutiny. Of those projects, six have been canceled, are on hold, or are under significant revision. 

Among the report's six recommendations:

  • Adopt fix-it-first policies that reorient transportation funding away from newer and wider highways and toward repair of existing roads and investment in other transportation options.
Hat tip to Evan Craig.
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Published on Tuesday, April 18, 2017 in Illinois PIRG
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