Stop the Dallas Trinity Parkway Boondoggle

More and more of us are moving off the roads. Yet, across the country there are countless proposed highway projects, like the Dallas Trinity Parkway, that are not just expensive — they’re outright boondoggles. We need your help to stop it. 

It's time to shift Texas’ transportation priorities

These days, more and more of us are moving off the roads. Across the country, and here in Texas, people are driving less on average than we have in years past. Driving peaked in America in 2007. Since then, the Millennial Generation has led the way, with more people walking, biking and taking transit. In fact, in 2014 more people rode public transportation than had in 57 years! Meanwhile, new technologies and other options, such as bike sharing, are making it easier for people to rely less on cars.

Yet, despite these well-documented changes in transportation trends, our decision makers continue to prioritize new roads and wasteful highway expansions. Meanwhile, other needs — from expanding public transportation to critical bridge repairs — go unmet. At a time when one in nine bridges in America are considered “structurally deficient,” these confused priorities put millions of Americans in danger every single day. 

The Dallas Trinity Parkway Boondoggle

In Texas, as part of a massive highway expansion plan for the Dallas-Fort Worth area to combat congestion, the state has proposed building a nine-mile, six-lane urban tollway that would run along the Trinity River through the heart of Dallas. Known as the Trinity Parkway, this 1.5 billion dollar megaproject has a budget gap of nearly $1 billion, and up to 80% of the cost of construction still remains unaccounted for. While partnering with private investors is on the table and taxpayers could be responsible for some of the difference, it is ultimately unclear where the money will come from. At a time when there are already 23 structurally deficient bridges in Dallas County alone, this is simply unacceptable. 

The timing of this proposal is critical as Dallas is currently experiencing major urban revitalization. This downtown renewal has been largely boosted by the expansion of public transportation in the area, which supports a growing residential base, and greatly appeals to highly sought-after millennial workers, who prefer a more urban live-work-play environment. 

Despite dissent from residents, continued risk of flooding, lack of proof that the tollway will decrease congestion, hindered urban revitalization, destruction of both riverfront access and thousands of acres of parkland, and increasing opposition from Dallas leaders, city officials, including Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, continue to push to develop the parkway. We need your help. Tell the governor to kill this wasteful and expensive project. We do not want irresponsible spending on unnecessary highway expansion at the expense of our community, our environment, and our development. 

Moving Texas forward 

Our lives, our communities, and how we get around are constantly changing. It’s well past time for our transportation spending priorities to reflect these changes, rather than the outdated assumptions that so many of them are based upon. We deserve to have a safe, reliable transportation system that offers real options for however people might want to get around. Stopping this highway boondoggle is an important first step for getting us there.

Issue updates

Blog Post | Solid Waste

Right to Repair surges forward on multiple fronts to start 2020 | Nathan Proctor

It’s common-sense: If something you own breaks, you should be able to fix it. But manufacturers don’t see it that way. Instead, they use a set of tactics to block independent repair because they want consumers to have to come to them to do repairs. Right to Repair made considerable progress in 2019, and just a little over a month into 2020, we’re seeing continued momentum. 

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Half of CFPB Complaints in 2019 About Credit Reports As House Brings Reforms To Floor | Ed Mierzwinski

On Wednesday, the full U.S. House is expected to vote on a credit reporting reform package, HR 3621, the Comprehensive CREDIT Act. Meanwhile, a PIRG analysis finds that half of all complaints to the CFPB in 2019 concerned credit reporting and the most-complained about companies, in the entire database, were the so-called  Big 3 credit bureaus.

> Keep Reading
News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Meat recalls remain high; produce and processed food recalls drop

Contaminated food, from Tyson's chicken strips containing chunks of metal to E. coli-laden romaine lettuce, posed a serious danger to Americans’ health in 2019. TexPIRG Education Fund crunched last year’s numbers for its How Safe Is Our Food? report and found that while recalls for produce and processed food have fallen 34 percent since 2016, recalls for meat and poultry have increased slightly since then -- and are up 65 percent since 2013. 

 

“Consumers shouldn't have to worry that their next bite might sicken or kill them, especially when food safety agencies leave so many solutions in the pantry,” said TexPIRG Director Bay Scoggin. “Our analysis suggests that when commonsense protections are implemented, our food gets safer.”

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Blog Post

American Farm Bureau Reaffirms Support for Right to Repair | Kevin O'Reilly

The American Farm Bureau Federation, which represents almost 6 million member families across the United States, voted decisively yesterday to endorse their members’ ability to fix their equipment when it breaks. In doing so, they set clear guidelines on what kind of policy they think will solve the problem.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

U.S. PIRG and Leading Groups Support Findings of Norwegian Privacy Report | Ed Mierzwinski

In support of a report by colleagues from the Norwegian Consumer Council on whether the data sharing and privacy practices of a number of dating and other smartphone apps were in compliance with European privacy rules (GDPR) or the new California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), U.S. PIRG and other leading groups sent joint letters to key policymakers, including the California, Oregon and TexaS Attorneys General, the Federal Trade Commission and all members of the U.S. House and Senate. 

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News Release | The Public Interest Network | Public Health

Hurricane season coverage: Data, resources and interview opportunities

The 2019 hurricane season officially gets underway tomorrow (June 1) with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicting between 4 and 8 hurricanes this year. On the heels of the devastating Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael in 2018, The Public Interest Network (which includes U.S. PIRGEnvironment America, and state groups in often-impacted states such as Florida, Georgia, North CarolinaTexas and Virginia) is sharing information to help contextualize the major environmental, health and consumer concerns posed by the hurricanes that will inevitably come this season.

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News Release | TexPIRG | Consumer Protection

TexPIRG: Consumers Do Well in Texas Legislature

The legislative session adjourned on Monday, with consumers and the public interest claiming some big victories including the end of surprise medical bills, said the consumer group TexPIRG on Tuesday.

Surprise medical bills will no longer affect consumers in Texas with a non-federal insurance plan after bipartisan work on Senator Hancock’s SB1264. The bill expands on a Texas Department of Insurance program that sends eligible surprise medical bills to an arbitration process between the insurance company and the healthcare provider. Before, consumers had to be aware of their eligibility and submit a request, but with the update, consumers will no longer even receive the surprise medical bill in the first place, significantly increasing utilization.    

The rest of the good news:

  • A bill by Representative Oliverson will prevent hidden fees at freestanding emergency rooms, ending a prominent consumer abuse.

  • Telemarketers won’t be able to “spoof” their calls anymore, thanks to Representative Leman’s HB1992. Spoofing is the practice where robocallers make their calls appear as if they originate from the same area code as the individual they are calling.

  • The Lower Colorado River Authority will be more transparent after TexPIRG and others called for changes as part of legislation to reauthorize the agency.

  • SB9, a bill that would reduce voter participation by making it harder to register and vote, was not passed. The bill was authored by Republic Senator Hughes.

  • HB3040, authored by Representative Hunter, will study how we select our judges, including whether or not elections or appointments will lead to more qualified, representative judicial nominees.

  • None of the many bills designed to block construction of a high-speed bullet train from Houston to Dallas passed, continuing the possibility of reduced congestion on I45 and lower transportation-related air emissions.

  • Bills to increase transparency in government spending, such as Representative Canales’ HB81, which requires disclosure of public spending on entertainment events, sometimes referred to as the Enrique Iglesias bill, after public spending on a concert by that artist received significant public criticism for the expenditure amount being hidden from the taxpayer.

“We were pleased with how the legislative session turned out, especially with the amount of transparency and healthcare-related bills that passed,” said Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG’s Director. “Consumers benefit from more transparency, in government, businesses, and markets, and we saw a concerted effort to pursue that goal.”

“Ending surprise medical bills for a large portion of Texas consumers and enacting one of the strongest arbitration programs in the country will serve healthcare consumers well in the coming years,” continued Scoggin.

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News Release | TexPIRG | Democracy

Sunset Commission calls for sunlight at LCRA

Following a report criticizing lack of transparency at the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), the Texas Sunset Commission examined the agency at a hearing today. The Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG) called on the Commission and state Legislature to adopt reforms to LCRA to provide greater transparency.
"Citizens' ability to understand how their tax dollars are spent is fundamental to democracy," said Bay Scoggin, Director of TexPIRG. "Budget and spending transparency holds government officials accountable for making smart decisions, checks corruption, and provides citizens an opportunity to affect how government dollars are spent. It's time for a dose of sunlight at LCRA." 

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Texas receives "D" grade for Volkswagen settlement spending plan

When it comes to clean transportation, Texas got a “D” for underutilizing funds from Volkswagen’s nearly $3 billion settlement with federal authorities, according to a new report card from U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Environment America Research & Policy Center.

After Volkswagen was caught three years ago violating emissions standards in 590,000 cars marketed as “clean diesel,” the German automaker agreed to create an “Environmental Mitigation Trust” to be distributed across all 50 states (along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Texas got its grade because the funds were made available for dirty fuels like compressed fracked gas, with no extra decision criteria for zero emissions vehicles.

“The Volkswagen settlement gave Texas the opportunity to make huge strides in the essential transition to a cleaner and healthier electric transportation system,” Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG Director said. “It’s deeply disappointing that there’s a lot of good is coming out of how some states are spending this money -- but we are not going nearly far enough.”

Texas placed near the bottom of states overall. The report gave only 15 states a C or better for money-spending policies that increase access to electric vehicle charging and bolster electric school and transit bus fleets. Fourteen states, along with Puerto Rico, received a failing score.

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Report: Roadmap for a stronger, more sustainable American infrastructure

Three years after candidates from both parties made infrastructure a key presidential campaign issue, it’s finally the long-awaited “infrastructure week.” Democratic congressional leaders and the White House announced two weeks ago that they would commit $2 trillion to the cause. But a new report from U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group cautions that before allocating that money, our elected officials need to determine which investments will alleviate the most dire problems America faces as a result of crumbling or outdated infrastructure -- climate change, pollution and threats to public safety.

“Deciding how much to spend before deciding what to spend it on puts the cart before the horse,” said Andre Delattre, senior vice president for program at The Public Interest Network, which includes the three groups that wrote the report. “If Congress and the Trump administration avoid the temptation to spend indiscriminately and instead develop a bold new infrastructure vision, we have the opportunity to give our children and grandchildren a stronger, healthier and more sustainable future.”

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Budget, Food

Apples to Twinkies 2012

In this report, we find that in 2011, over $1.28 billion in taxpayer subsidies went to junk food ingredients, bringing the total to a staggering $18.2 billion since 1995. To put that figure in perspective, $18.2 billion is enough to buy 2.9 billion Twinkies every year - 21 for every single American taxpayer.

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Report | TexPIRG | Higher Ed

Doubling Student Debt Rates to Cost Texas Students $400 Million

Higher education advocates released new data today showing that an anticipated increase in the student loan interest rate would cost Texas students $400 million per year. The increase would affect federally subsidized Stafford loans, which are provided to almost 7.5 million low and moderate-income students nationwide each year. If Congress does nothing, then beginning on July 1st, the interest rate will double from 3.4% to 6.8% on new student loans.

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Report | TexPIRG | Higher Ed

The Cost of College Will Soar if Interest Rates Allowed to Double

More than 7 million students and their families rely on Subsidized Stafford Loans to help pay for college. The loans distributed by the U.S. Department of Education currently hold an interest rate of 3.4 percent. But that rate is set to double if Congress fails to act by July 1, 2012.

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Report | TexPIRG | Budget

Picking Up the Tab

Some U.S.-based multinational firms or individuals avoid paying U.S. taxes by transferring their earnings to countries with minimal or no taxes. These tax havens users benefit from their access to America’s markets, workforce, infrastructure and security; but they pay little or nothing for it—violating the basic fairness of the tax system and forcing other taxpayers to pick up the tab.

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Transportation and the New Generation

From World War II until just a few years ago, the number of miles driven annually on America’s roads steadily increased. Then, at the turn of the century, something changed: Americans began driving less. By 2011, the average American was driving 6 percent fewer miles per year than in 2004.

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Blog Post

Our investigation reveals shocking range of prices for critical medications

We know that we pay some of the world's highest prices for medications. But why should the price we pay for the same medication be dramatically higher at one pharmacy than another?

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Blog Post

Zero Hunger campaign aims to end hunger on 10 college campuses

From Oregon to Kentucky, California to Maryland, students at college campuses across the country are teaming up to end student hunger by cutting food waste.

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Blog Post | Transportation

Our 'Driving into Debt' report highlights the impact of risky auto loans and car ownership

Talk about a captive market: For most of us, it's next to impossible to work, shop or go to school without a car. Auto lenders are taking full advantage.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Solid Waste

More than 10,000 people pledge to skip the straw

More than 10,000 Americans said "no" to plastic straws in February. Feb. 22 marked the third annual national Skip the Straw Day—a day created by Michigan middle school students who were fed up with plastic pollution and its impact on wildlife and the planet.

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Blog Post

YouTube town hall attracts thousands who want the right to repair our stuff

If you're frustrated because it's easier to buy a new phone, computer or appliance than repair your old one, you're not alone.

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Blog Post

U.S. PIRG is calling on municipal, state and federal policymakers to mandate face masks in all indoor public spaces, as well as in outdoor locations where it’s hard for people to socially distance six feet apart.

Report

Our report on how manufacturers restrict repair for devices in hospitals, and how that impacts patient care. The report includes a survey of 222 medical device repair professionals, which highlights how widespread these issues are in hospitals, even during the pandemic. 

News Release | TexPIRG

With the number of COVID-19 cases continuing to rise nationally, TexPIRG released a new fact sheet today, showing Texas is “trending poorly” when it comes to meeting COVID-19 containment criteria. This is the second week TexPIRG has tracked in-state coronavirus efforts. Last week, Texas received a “trending poorly” grade. 

News Release | TexPIRG

Today, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a mask mandate for Texans living in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases. Lauren Banister, TexPIRG Public Interest Associate, issued the following statement in response to this decision.

News Release | TexPIRG

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services  has reversed its decision to end federal funding for five of the seven testing sites it had slated for closure in Texas. Last week, the Trump Administration released plans to end federal funding for 13 coronavirus testing sites on June 30 with seven of those testing sites in major Texas cities. Five of the sites in Texas now have a two week extension of federal funding.

Lauren Banister, TexPIRG Associate issued the following statement in response to this decision

Transportation

Austin approves big expansion in clean, electric public transit

The Austin City Council and Capital Metro board of directors have unanimously approved the TexPIRG-backed Project Connect System Plan, which would dramatically expand the city's light rail transit system, its fleet of zero-emission electric buses and the routes those buses take.

 

Public Health

Responding to the COVID crisis

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, now more than ever, we need to work together to ensure that our government has a coordinated, strategic response to safeguard the public’s health, protect consumers from emerging dangers and ensure people can still participate fully in our democracy.

 

Transportation

House transportation bill prioritizes fixing infrastructure, sustainable investment

Federal lawmakers have put forward the INVEST in America Act — a nearly $500 billion transportation spending bill which prioritizes repairing existing infrastructure over new highway projects, and contains key provisions for more sustainable investments.

 

Solid Waste

U.S. PIRG, coalition partners urge Congress to reject plastics industry investment proposal

In a letter, U.S. PIRG, the Break Free From Plastic movement and a coalition of NGOs called on Congress to reject a plastics industry proposal to invest up to $1 billion in industry infrastructure and expressed strong support for federal legislation to slash plastic waste.

 
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