“High Desert Freeway” makes national list of highway boondoggles

Media Contacts
Emily Rusch

Vice President and Senior Director of State Offices, The Public Interest Network

LA County’s proposed first new highway in 25 years would run counter to California’s efforts to reduce global warming emissions

CALPIRG Education Fund

Los Angeles — California is often at the front of the pack when it comes to reducing global warming emissions. But according to a new report by CALPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group, if Los Angeles County moves forward with its “High Desert Freeway,” the state would take an $8 billion step in the wrong direction. The proposed project would be LA County’s first new highway in 25 years, and would lead to more driving, more pollution and more sprawling desert development.

“To improve California’s transportation system and hit our climate and clean air goals, we must reduce our reliance on cars and highways,” said Emily Rusch, CALPIRG Education Fund executive director. “This project does the opposite, doubling down on a car-centric system that will encourage more people to hit the roads — leading to more traffic, sprawl and pollution.”

In order for California to hit its 2030 climate goals, the average Californian needs to reduce driving by 1.6 miles per day. But according to state estimates, the High Desert Freeway will increase driving. And contrary to claims from some California officials that the new freeway would help passengers access greener transportation options such as the XpressWest high speed rail, the report argues that it would instead be more likely to siphon passengers away from them.

“Sometimes it’s the infrastructure we don’t build that makes all the difference,” said Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group, report co-author. “Cities from Dallas to Tampa to Milwaukee have discovered that ditching boondoggle highway projects has opened up new opportunities to build stronger, cleaner and more fiscally sustainable communities.”

Highway Boondoggles 5 recommends that California cancel the High Desert Freeway and other proposed highway expansion projects, and instead invest in more effective transportation solutions, such as road repair and transit expansion.  

“California, like the rest of America, still has a misplaced appetite for costly and disruptive highway expansion projects. But if we’re smarter about how we spend our transportation dollars, we can achieve a more sustainable, affordable and better-functioning transportation system,” said Matt Casale, U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s Transportation Campaign director. “That means avoiding spending billions of dollars on harmful, wasteful projects such as the High Desert Freeway.”