Pennsylvania “Turnpike Expansion Plan” Makes National List of Highway Boondoggles, Will Cost $6.9 Billion

New Report Identifies Nine Highway Boondoggles Across the Country

PennPIRG Education Fund

Contact: Matt Casale, PennPIRG Transportation Program Director, (617) 747-4314, [email protected]

Highway projects are notorious for wasting taxpayer dollars. Now, a new report by PennPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group identifies nine of the most wasteful highway expansion projects across the country, slated to collectively cost at least $30 billion. Making the list of national highway boondoggles is the decades long “Turnpike Expansion Plan” in Pennsylvania. The plan aims to widen the highway over a 470 mile stretch, which would cost a total of $6.9 billion.

“The money we spend today decides how we get around tomorrow,” said Matt Casale, PennPIRG Transportation Program Director. “We need to start solving our transportation problems, from potholes to pollution, and not waste money on the type of highway projects that should be in our rearview mirror.”

The Turnpike is America’s oldest superhighway, and requires frequent maintenance and has an outdated design, but the report argues that policy of adding lanes on all 470 miles goes beyond what is necessary. The report finds that this could have serious costs for Pennsylvanians. As of 2016, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) already has $11 billion in debt. The PTC’s increasing debt threatens transit services throughout Pennsylvania — which might now lose out on state funds.

“From 2008 to 2015, state highway debt more than doubled to $217 billion,” said Gideon Weissman, a Frontier Group analyst and report co-author. “We keep building new highways we don’t need, and that hurts our ability to move toward a smart 21st century transportation system that works for all of us.”

The report recommends that states reexamine proposed highway expansion projects in light of changing transportation needs and instead invest in more effective solutions, such as road repair and transit expansion, that reduce the misplaced appetite for costly and disruptive highway expansion projects.  

“We need to be smarter about how we spend our transportation dollars. Now and in the future, Pennsylvania should have less pollution, less gridlock and more public transit,” said Casale. “ We have the tools to build a better transportation system. We just need to use them.”