PIRG: Court right to shoot down federal funds for highway expansion

The United States Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) applauded a federal court in Wisconsin for recently nixing Gov. Scott Walker’s request for federal funds to use for the $146 million widening of Highway 23 after it ruled no need had been demonstrated.

In its decision issued at the end of May, the court said Wisconsin did not provide adequate evidence in the form of travel forecasts or recent traffic counts to justify widening the highway, questioning whether similar proposals elsewhere around the country are really needed.

PIRG National Campaign Director for 21st Century Transportation John Olivieri said it is about time that states realize they can’t just spend federal dollars on costly highway expansions without demonstrating a need.

“This wasteful  Wisconsin highway boondoggle didn’t stand up under scrutiny,” Olivieri said.

A report last year by the PIRG identified 11 questionable highway projects across the nation, totaling at least $13 billion. The Illiana Expressway in Illinois and the Dallas Trinity Toll Road in Texas were among them.

In Illinois, a similar lawsuit was filed last week challenging inflated driving forecasts used by the Illinois Department of Transportation to justify building the Illiana expressway, which has been heavily criticized as unnecessary. This week, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner announced he will remove the highway from the state’s list of approved projects.

Dallas’ proposed Trinity Parkway was approved in a referendum, but details about large public subsidies and other problems have stalled the project in political debates over its merits.

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