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Our List of Highway Boondoggles
We’ve targeted some of America’s biggest highway boondoggles, and are working to stop them from moving forward. Just as importantly, we plan to use these examples as a way to spark a serious conversation about making smarter transportation choices, and giving us more options to get around.
Questionable projects poised to absorb billions of scarce transportation dollars include:
- I-95 widening, Connecticut, $11.2 billion – Widening the highway across the entire state of Connecticut would not solve congestion along one of the nation’s most high-intensity travel corridors, while alternatives focusing on increasing rail capacity could.
- Tampa Bay Express Lanes, Florida, $3.3 billion – State officials admit that a decades-old plan to construct toll lanes would not solve the region’s problems with congestion, while displacing critical community job-training and recreational facilities. CAMPAIGN UPDATE: In December 2016, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold told a state senate panel that he wants to “hit the reset button” on the Tampa Bay Express Lanes project. The Howard Frankland Bridge portion of the project, that was scheduled to begin in 2019, has come under such fire from critics that it was revised to include fewer toll lanes.
- San Gabriel Valley Route 710 tunnel, California, $3.2 billion to $5.6 billion – State officials are considering the most expensive, most polluting and least effective option for addressing the area’s transportation problems: a single or double bore tunnel.
- I-70 East widening, Colorado, $58 million – While replacing a crumbling viaduct that needs to be addressed, Colorado proposes wasting millions of dollars widening the road and increasing pollution in the surrounding community.
- Puget Sound Gateway, Washington, $2.8 billion to $3.1 billion – The state is proposing to spend billions of dollars on a highway to relieve congestion in an area where traffic has not grown for more than a decade, and where other pressing needs for transportation funding exist.
- State Highway 249 extension, Texas, $337 million to $389 million – The Texas Department of Transportation relies on outdated traffic projections to justify building a 30-mile six-lane highway through an area already suffering from air quality problems.
- Paseo del Volcan extension, New Mexico, $96 million– A major landholder is hoping to get taxpayer funding to build a road that would open thousands of acres of desert to sprawling development.
- Mon-Fayette Expressway extension, Pennsylvania, $1.7 billion – A new toll road long criticized because it would damage communities is moving forward in an area where residents are calling instead for repairs to existing roads and investment in transit improvements. CAMPAIGN UPDATE: The expressway was put on a list of six projects that Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission officials say might be suspended if financial conditions worsen for the turnpike.
- Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct, Washington, $3.1 billion to $4.1 billion – A cheaper transit-based alternative to an expensive highway tunnel has already been put in place as a stopgap during the much-delayed tunneling project. The stopgap’s successes could be built upon in order to achieve nearly all the same goals as the tunnel project for far less money.
- Tesoro Extension to Toll Road 241, California, $200 million – A proposed extension of a toll road already in danger of default because of lower-than-projected traffic. CAMPAIGN UPDATE: An agreement between the Orange County Transportation Corridor Agencies, the California Attorney General and a coalition of national and local environmental groups succeeded in protecting the San Onofre State Beach and canceling prior approval of the Tesoro Extension project.
- Interstate 11, Arizona and Nevada, $2.5 billion – A long-distance Interstate highway would be built in a corridor already well served by a non-Interstate highway that is not projected to become congested in the foreseeable future. CAMPAIGN UPDATE: No funding for the Arizona portion of the project had been identified as of June 2016, although the state is moving forward with the Environmental Impact Statement process.
- Dallas Trinity Parkway, Texas, $1.5 billion – A nine-mile, urban toll road through the heart of Dallas could have an adverse affect on surrounding highways, while detracting from popular, ongoing efforts to make downtown Dallas an attractive place to live and work. CAMPAIGN UPDATE: In August 2015, the Dallas City Council voted unanimously to revise the road to a four-lane version, instead of the previously proposed six-lane toll road. Following a $50 million donation for the associated Trinity River Park, it seems more and more likely that the park will move forward without the Trinity toll road.
- Tolled Express Lanes on Route 470, Colorado, $153 million – The state’s own analysis assumes that the project won’t deliver net benefits until at least the early 2030s.
- Double-decking I-94 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, $800 million – Insisting on a wider road despite data showing feared traffic increases are not materializing, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation wants to rebuild an existing highway as an eight-lane double-decker route through a narrow channel between three cemeteries, despite objections from local officials and citizen groups. CAMPAIGN UPDATE: The new version of the I-94 expansion is a scaled-down idea of the previously proposed double-decker highway.
- Widening I-94 through Detroit, Michigan, $2.7 billion – Motor City area residents say they would rather live with current traffic congestion than pay for road widening projects. Nevertheless, state highway planners want to expand a highway through Detroit, further disconnecting two rebounding neighborhoods and demolishing 11 pedestrian-usable bridges. CAMPAIGN UPDATE: In March 2016, the Detroit City Council passed a resolution unanimously opposing the widening of Interstate 94 and Interstate 75.
- Illiana Expressway, Illinois and Indiana, $1.3 billion to $2.8 billion – A new privatized toll road proposed primarily to speed freight trucks across the Midwest may instead charge tolls too high to attract trucks, and will likely require hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies. CAMPAIGN UPDATE: Because an environmental review for the Illiana Expressway relied on an initial review that had previously been thrown out by the courts, a judge declared it to be invalid and "no longer effective."
- Effingham Parkway, Georgia, $49 million to $100 million – A new road north and west of Savannah is intended to relieve the traffic burden from an existing state highway, even though traffic is not keeping up with projections.
- I-26 Connector, North Carolina, $400 million to $600 million – A large part of this massive project includes widening a highway that is not used enough to justify the expansion, in the process destroying homes and businesses in a mature livable neighborhood.
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