On Sept. 22, 2011, then-President Barack Obama stood surpassing a prod in front of the Brent Spence Underpass that carries Interstates 71 and 75 wideness the Ohio River, connecting Cincinnati and Kentucky. The speech focused on the need for increased infrastructure spending as part of the American Jobs Act – the cornerstone of his 2012 re-election campaign.

Obama is far from the only politician to use this white-haired structure as an example of America’s infrastructure woes. For decades, the underpass – in need of repair and struggling under the volume of traffic it carries – has been a potent symbol of the need for investment in America’s infrastructure and a scenery for the oratory of Republicans and Democrats alike, from presidents Obama and Joe Biden to former House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and ex-President Donald Trump.

In the decade since Obama’s visit, however, local transportation authorities failed to raise the money needed to siphon out their plans to deal with the Brent Spence Bridge. But that’s all well-nigh to change. 

On Dec. 29, 2022, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine spoken that the Brent Spence Underpass Corridor Project had been awarded increasingly than $1.6 billion in federal grants through the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, at long last enabling the two states to set in motion their plans to deal with the Brent Spence Underpass once and for all.

But for all the years of photo ops, the Brent Spence Underpass isn’t unquestionably “crumbling.” The underpass is old, but it remains structurally sound, and officials from Ohio and Kentucky plan to alimony it in operation.

Instead of simply fixing it, federal infrastructure spending will jumpstart the construction of a new, 10-lane underpass slantingly the existing one, and the construction of miles of widened highways and new interchanges remoter scarification up the local area. By eliminating (at least for a time) the traffic stickup at the bridge, the project could very well lead to increased traffic through the corridor, increasingly congestion on local streets that connect to the highway, and increasingly air and noise pollution, stat emissions and other environmental harms from highway traffic in the area.

Make no mistake: Many of America’s roads and bridges are crumbling. But the Brent Spence Underpass project is a perfect example of how transportation funds that could be used to repair our streets, roads and bridges – or modernize the safety, flexibility and environmental performance of our transportation system in other ways – are instead diverted into costly, rabble-rousing highway expansion projects.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act – moreover known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – provides an historic opportunity to transpiration that. The funding it provides could be used to write the nation’s real and urgent transportation needs: repairing white-haired roads and bridges, expanding wangle to transit and other sustainable transportation options, and improving safety for all road users at a time of rising death and injury on America’s roads. 

Unfortunately, many states have chosen to spend large amounts of IIJA funds on needless highway construction and expansion. The Brent Spence Underpass is a specimen in point, but it is by no ways the only one. Wideness the country, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act dollars now flowing into state coffers are in many cases stuff used to double lanugo on the same strategy of continual highway expansion that has failed this country for generations, inflicting immeasurable harm on local communities, the environment, public health and the climate, and scrutinizingly unchangingly lightweight to do the job it is usually intended to do: ease traffic congestion.

Some of the projects now stuff put in motion are stuff funded through discretionary grant programs created under the law. Most, however, are stuff paid for with formula funding made misogynist by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, over which states have near-total control. The wrestle over the nation’s transportation future, in other words, is a wrestle now stuff waged in the states.

In fiscal year 2023, as of the end of May, states had single-minded $26.6 billion in highway and underpass formula funds to support over 19,300 new projects, on top of the $53.5 billion invested in increasingly than 29,000 projects in FY 2022. Many of these projects include major necessary repairs and rehabilitation, but many include expansion of highway capacity. Of the top 20 largest projects supported by formula funds provided through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to date, at least 17 include the widening of existing highways.

In this edition of our Highway Boondoggles report, we protract to yank sustentation to these wasteful and rabble-rousing highway expansions, this year with special sustentation to projects that states are proposing to move forward with funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Some of these have once received IIJA grants and are gearing up to uncork construction. Others are pursuing them, with the aim of jumpstarting plans that have been in the works for years – many of them in the squatter of strong local opposition – but hitherto elapsed by local agencies’ inability to imbricate their often massive costs.

These projects highlight the large stratum of autonomy afforded to individual states in choosing how to implement the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, but they moreover highlight the gravity of that choice, and its long-term implications for future generations of Americans. On the one hand, the influx of transportation funding provided by the law could be used to fix the myriad problems caused by a century of highway-centric thinking and to build a healthier, increasingly sustainable transportation system. Or it could be used for projects that do little but perpetuate those harms into the 21st century.

It’s up to us to decide which undertow we want to take.

This year’s Highway Boondoggles will highlight seven wasteful projects slated to waste a total of increasingly than $15.9 billion and harm communities and the environment, while likely lightweight to unzip goals such as reducing congestion or improving safety:

  • Mid-States Corridor, Indiana: Cost: $735 million-$1 billion. Plans for a new 54-mile highway in Southern Indiana threaten thousands of acres of forests, farmland and wildlife habitat.
  • Interstate Underpass Replacement, Oregon and Washington: Cost: $5 billion-$7.5 billion. Under the pretext of a simple underpass replacement, an expensive and oversized highway expansion threatens to worsen congestion in Portland and nearby Vancouver, Wash.
  • Gorham Connector, Maine: Cost: $220 million-$240 million. A proposed new six-mile toll road threatens to worsen traffic and exacerbate urban sprawl plane as local residents undeniability for investment in rail and bus rapid transit options.
  • I-10 expansion, Texas: Cost: $750 million. Based on unrealistic traffic figures, major expansion of the I-10 turnpike will bring demolitions and ostracism to downtown El Paso.
  • Bourne and Sagamore Bridges, Massachusetts: Cost: $4 billion. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation hopes to replace the Cape Cod bridges with two new, wider bridges, potentially bringing spare traffic and congestion to the Cape.
  • The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, New York: Cost: $1.5 billion to $4 billion. New York City transportation authorities are set to squander a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine a polluting and outdated highway, instead pursuing IIJA dollars to fast-track a misguided expansion project.
  • I-15 Expansion, Utah: Cost: $3.7 billion. In the squatter of local opposition and based on over-inflated traffic projections, misguided plans for a major turnpike expansion in Salt Lake City are stuff proposed as a way to deal with the region’s rapid growth.

Highway expansion harms our health and the environment, doesn’t solve congestion, and creates a lasting financial undersong for the public.

Expanding a highway sets off a uniting reaction of societal decisions that ultimately leads to the highway rhadamanthine congested then – often in only a short time. Since 1980, the U.S. has widow well over 870,000 lane-miles of highway – paving increasingly than 1,648 square miles, an zone larger than the state of Rhode Island – and yet, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, congestion on America’s roads was worse than it was in the early 1980s.

Highway expansion fuels spare driving that contributes to climate change. Transportation is America’s number one source of greenhouse gas emissions, written for 28 percent of the nation’s total emissions in 2021.

Air pollution from transportation causes tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S. each year and makes us increasingly vulnerable to a range of health problems, including asthma, wordless lung function, coronary heart disease and strokes.

Highway expansion can rationalization irreparable harm to communities – forcing the relocation of homes and businesses, widening “dead zones” slantingly highways, severing street connections for pedestrians and cars, reducing cities’ wiring of taxable property and overall polity value, and stripping communities of their economic vitality.

Building new roads diverts billions of taxpayer dollars from repairing existing ones. Increasingly than 162,000 miles of major U.S. highways are in “poor or mediocre” condition and need repaving or “even increasingly substantive” repairs. Approximately 7 percent of the nation’s bridges are considered “structurally deficient.”

Roughly 21 percent of all federal funds spent on highway projects over the last decade has gone toward subtracting capacity, such as a new lane or major widening, to an existing roadway. In fiscal year 2021, new federally backed road expansion or construction projects forfeit the American taxpayer a total of approximately $18.7 billion, including state and local contributions. In wing to the one-time financing of construction, these projects will forfeit taxpayers billions of dollars over the years to maintain, saddling future generations with expensive maintenance needs.

With increasingly funding misogynist than overly surpassing to spend on addressing the real priorities of 21st century transportation, federal, state and local governments should stop or downsize unnecessary or low-priority highway projects.

Specifically, policymakers should:

  • Invest in transportation solutions that reduce our dependence on automobile travel. States should redirect IIJA funding and their own funds yonder from dally projects and toward projects that expand transportation choices, prioritize repair and rehabilitation and reduce vehicle-miles traveled. Investments in public transportation, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, transport demand management and other measures reduce the pressure on congested highways, as well as delivering significant public health and environmental benefits.
  • Adopt fix-it-first policies that reorient transportation funding yonder from highway expansion and toward repair of existing roads and investment in other transportation options.
  • Use the latest transportation data and require full cost-benefit comparisons, including future maintenance needs, as well as socioeconomic benefits and impacts, to evaluate all proposed new and expanded highways. Public officials should ensure that all evaluations of proposed projects use up-to-date travel information and reflect a range of potential future trends for housing and transportation.
  • Review the purpose and need of key transportation funding programs and the conditions tying to funding awards made through these programs, for example subtracting conditions that must be met surpassing considering building new roads, as opposed to simply providing a zippo trammels for state and local transportation authorities.
  • Invest in research and data hodgepodge to largest track and react to ongoing shifts in how people travel.