U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group have identified what they deem to be nine new wasteful highway expansion projects across the country in what is now the fifth edition of their Highway Boondoggles report.
Collectively, these nine newly identified projects are slated to cost at least $25 billion. Over the course of five reports, the two groups have profiled 50 "boondoggles" in the U.S.
In addition to identifying the nine new projects, this fifth Highway Boondoggles report looks back at five projects profiled in previous editions, highlighting some cases where states went ahead with their expansion projects. In other cases, states reversed course and opted for dedicating money allocated to boondoggles to road repairs and public transportation.
The "boondoggles" listed in the 2019 report include: the "Complete 540" project in North Carolina (estimated cost: $2.2 billion); the North Houston Highway Improvement Project in Texas ($7+ billion); High Desert Freeway in California ($8 billion); I-75 in Michigan ($1.4 billion); the Tri-State Tollway widening in Illinois ($4 billion); Connecting Miami project (I-395/S.R. 836/I-95) in Florida ($802 million); I-83 widening in York County, Pennsylvania ($300 million); I-5 Rose Quarter widening in Oregon ($450 million); and I-81 in Virginia ($2.2 billion).
The report identifies some specific issues with the projects that made the list. For instance, it says the North Houston Highway Improvement project would expand already large stretches of highway through the middle of Houston, and would displace homes and businesses in addition to widening barriers between communities. When it comes to the High Desert Freeway, the report notes that the project has the potential to encourage sprawl in fragile desert ecosystems, where development could alter the landscape and strain scarce water resources.
The report recommends that states cancel these—as well as other—proposed highway expansion projects in light of changing transportation needs and instead invest in more effective solutions, such as road repair and transit expansion.