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

Drinking Water Shut Off In All Detroit Schools Due To Lead

As school started for the year, many students in Detroit returned to schools with drinking water containing lead—a toxin that can impact how they think, learn and behave.

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Blog Post

'This Infection is Resistant to Everything We Have'

Those are not words any patient wants to hear.

But a surgeon at The Johns Hopkins Hospital tells U.S. PIRG Education Fund that he and other doctors are being forced to deliver that message. He points to the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture as a major culprit.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Court Rules That The EPA Must Stop Delaying Critical 'Chemical Disaster Rule'

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the Arkema chemical plant outside of Houston, Texas, was wracked by a series of fires and explosions. Due to a court ruling, the Environmental Protection Agency can no longer delay action to prevent chemical disasters and protect first responders.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

1 Year After Equifax Data Breach, Here's Everything You Need To Know

One year after announcing the biggest data breach in history, Equifax still hasn’t been held accountable or provided the information and tools consumers need to protect themselves. Since Equifax won’t help protect consumers, TexPIRG is stepping in.

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Antibiotics

New Scorecard Grades Top Restaurant Chains on Antibiotic Use in Meat Supply

More than half of the largest 25 chain restaurants in the U.S. have taken steps to restrict routine antibiotic use in their chicken supply chains, according to a new scorecard released today by a group of consumer, environmental and public health organizations. That’s good news given that the misuse of antibiotics in meat production puts our health at risk by breeding drug-resistant bacteria.

 

The third annual Chain Reaction III report was produced by Consumers Union, Natural Resources Defense Council, Food Animal Concerns Trust, Friends of the Earth, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, and Center for Food Safety. This year’s report, which grades the companies on their antibiotics policies and practices, found that 14 restaurants have taken action, up from nine just one year ago. While restaurant chains made great progress on chicken, the groups found that there were no new commitments to limit antibiotic use in beef and pork.  

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News Release | Transportation

Highway Administration Reinstates Clean Air Rule In Response to Lawsuit

In a victory for climate and clean air, the Federal Highway Administration responded to a lawsuit brought by U.S. PIRG, NRDC, and the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Clean Air Carolina by reinstating a federal requirement that state and local planners track and curb carbon pollution from cars and trucks on the national highways, which is a major contributor to climate change.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Equifax CEO Retirement Not Enough To Clean Up Credit Bureaus, Need CFPB

Here's our statement by Consumer Program Director Ed Mierzwinski regarding the announcement from Equifax that the retirement of the CEO who presided over its massive data breach and "inadequate, maddening" response was not enough to clean up the credit bureaus. Congress also needs to act to provide free credit freezes for all and to force all of the Big 3 credit bureaus to do a better job.

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News Release | Transportation

In Response to Lawsuit, Highway Administration Reinstates Transportation Clean Air Rule

WASHINGTON (Sept. 25, 2017) – In a big win for climate and clean air, the Federal Highway Administration today responded to a lawsuit brought by environmental groups by reinstating a federal requirement that state and local planners track and curb carbon pollution from cars and trucks on the national highways, which is a major contributor to climate change.

On July 31st, TexPIRG’s national affiliate, U.S. PIRG, along with the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Clean Air Carolina, sued the Federal Highway Administration for illegally suspending, earlier in the year, the federal transportation greenhouse gas rule advanced by the Highway Administration under the Obama administration.

 

Today’s action means that federal officials can continue working with local and state transportation agencies across the country to hammer out smarter, more effective transportation plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that harm both public health and the environment. They face a first compliance deadline of October 2018.

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News Release | Health Care

Our Statement in Opposition to Graham-Cassidy Health Care Bill

The latest version of health care legislation before the U.S. Senate remains very dangerous for American consumers, and we urge a “no” vote.

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Report | TexPIRG | Tax

Tax Shell Game

Tax havens are countries with minimal or no taxes, to which U.S.-based multinational firms or individuals transfer their earnings to avoid paying taxes in the United States. Users of tax havens benefit from access to America’s markets, workforce, infrastructure and security, but pay little or nothing for it—violating the basic fairness of the tax system. Abuse of tax havens inflicts a price on other American taxpayers, who must pay higher taxes—now or in the future—to cover the government’s revenue shortfall, or must deal with cuts in government services.

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Report | TexPIRG | Health Care

Building a Better Health Care Marketplace

Policy Brief #4: Ensuring Exchange Stability and Protecting Against Adverse Selection: The idea of creating health insurance purchasing pools, like those called for in the Affordable Care Act, is not a new one. In the past, many states have experimented with creating such pools, and their experience has shown that mechanisms like the exchange can succeed at improving choice and holding down costs.

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Report | TexPIRG | Transportation

Property Rights Protection Act (PRPA)

The Property Rights Protection Act (PRPA) is genuine eminent domain reform and provides property owners in Texas with much-needed protections from profit-driven eminent domain for private gain. PRPA guards landowners from wrongful takings and ensures property owners that they will be fairly compensated for their land. It provides the people of Texas with strong safeguards to defend themselves against unlawful condemnations.

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Report | TexPIRG | Health Care

Building a Better Health Care Marketplace

Policy Brief #3: Spotlight on Small Business: While many Americans struggle with the rising costs and eroding quality of health care, the plight of small businesses stands out – lacking the advantages possessed by larger businesses, they face unique challenges.

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Report | TexPIRG | Health Care

Building a Better Health Care Marketplace

Policy Brief #2: Negotiating for a Better Deal: A well-made state exchange can help deliver lower costs for individuals and small businesses. Just as big businesses negotiate with insurers, using the bargaining power of their employees to push for lower premiums, so too can exchange enrollees benefit from a muscular exchange that negotiates on their behalf for better choices and lower costs.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

This week, CFPB Sues TCF Bank for overdraft schemes and loan servicer Navient for "failing" students | Ed Mierzwinski

Despite an escalation of threats to exterminate the Consumer FInancial Protection Bureau, CFPB continues to protect consumers well. This week it sued TCF Bank over deceptive overdraft marketing schemes and it sued Navient, the student loan servicer and Sallie Mae spinoff, for "failing" students at every step of the repayment process. The TCF complaint notes that its CEO brazenly named his boat "Overdraft."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Report Finds 1 In 4 Consumers Feel "Threatened" By Debt Collector Tactics | Ed Mierzwinski

We joined Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray and Washington, DC Attorney General Karl Racine for release of new CFPB data on debt collector abuses. Fully 1 in 4 consumers feel "threatened" by abusive, possibly illegal, debt collector tactics. The release also included an emphasis on problems with the "debt buyer" industry, comprised of firms that buy older, uncollected debt for as little as less than a penny on the dollar.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB Slams Two Credit Bureaus For Deceptive Marketing, Expect Experian Next | Ed Mierzwinski

This week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau nailed two "big 3" credit bureaus --Trans Union and Equifax -- for deceptive marketing of their over-priced, under-performing credit monitoring subscription products.  Combined fines and consumer restitution total $23 million. I predict that the CFPB will also bring a case against the remaining bureau, Experian, and that it will pay much more, because Experian really has led the way in aggressively marketing these tawdry products. They don't prevent identity theft, nor do they always accurately disclose your credit score, at fees of up to $16.95/month or more. Yikes!

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

This New Year, Celebrate the CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

This month, we published our 8th report based on analyzing consumer complaints collected in the CFPB's Public Consumer Complaint Database. The release of "Big Banks, Big Overdraft Fees" provides a good year-end opportunity to summarize a few of the reasons to be thankful for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which took over in July 2011 as the first federal regulator with just one job: protecting consumers from unfair financial practices. The idea of the CFPB needs no defense, only more defenders.

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Blog Post | Antibiotics

Another (yes, another) reason to stop overusing antibiotics | Matt Wellington

Researchers from The Ohio State University published a report today about the discovery of E-coli bacteria resistant to the antibiotic carbapenem in an Ohio swine facility. Uh oh.

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund

Despite boasting one of the most extensive highway systems of any city in the country, Houston is planning to spend $7 billion on the “North Houston Highway Improvement Project.” According to a new report from TexPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group, the project would expand I-45 through the middle of Houston, displacing homes and dividing communities.

“The fundamental law of road congestion is that if you build it, they will come,” said Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG Education Fund director. “More highways means more cars, so policymakers are living in a ‘Field of Dreams’ if they think this project will reduce congestion.”

“To improve Houston’s transportation system, we have to reduce our reliance on cars and highways,” Scoggin continued.  “This project does the opposite, doubling down on a car-centric system that will lead to more traffic, pollution and sprawl.”

Report | TexPIRG Education Fund

America’s aging roads and bridges need fixing. Our car-dependent transportation system is dangerous, harms our communities, and is the nation’s leading source of global warming pollution. And more than ever before, it is clear that America needs to invest in giving people healthier, more sustainable transportation options.

Yet year after year, state and local governments propose billions of dollars’ worth of new and expanded highways that often do little to reduce congestion or address real transportation challenges, while diverting scarce funding from infrastructure repairs and key transportation priorities. Highway Boondoggles 5 finds nine new budget-eating highway projects slated to cost a total of $25 billion that will harm communities and the environment, while likely failing to achieve meaningful transportation goals.

Highway expansion costs transportation agencies billions of dollars, driving them further into debt, while failing to address our long-term transportation challenges.

·         Highway expansions are expensive and saddle states with debt.

o   In 2012, the latest year for which data is available, federal, state and local governments spent $27.2 billion on highway expansion projects – sucking money away from road repair, transit, and other local needs.

o   From 2008 to 2015, the highway debt of state transportation agencies nearly doubled, from $111 billion to $217 billion.

o   New roadway is expensive to maintain, and represents a lasting financial burden. The average lane mile costs $24,000 per year to keep in a state of good repair.

·         Highway expansion doesn’t solve congestion.

o   Expanding a highway sets off a chain reaction of societal decisions that ultimately lead the highway to become congested again – often in only a short time. Since 1980, the nation has added more than 800,000 lane-miles of highway – paving more than 1,500 square miles, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island – and yet congestion today is worse than it was in the early 1980s.

·         Highway expansion damages the environment and our communities.

o   Highway expansion fuels additional driving that contributes to climate change. In 2017, transportation was the nation’s number one source of global warming pollution.

o   Highway expansion can also cause irreparable harm to communities – forcing the relocation of homes and businesses, widening “dead zones” alongside highways, severing street connections for pedestrians and cars, and reducing the city’s base of taxable property.

Blog Post

The media are reporting that efforts led by BigTech and BigPhone to push Congress to enact a self-serving umbrella privacy law on Capitol Hill are stalling. But that's only for now; they are still pushing hard. Pushback from legislators with stronger state laws is helping slow them down. So are the welcome efforts of civil rights colleagues to demand that digital and algorithmic decisions not discriminate. There's an important civil rights briefing later this afternoon on Capitol Hill. Learn more. 

Blog Post

Today, TexPIRG asked the Governor to get SB1264 off his desk and into law, protecting consumers with non-federal health plans from ever having to deal with surprise medical bills again. Check out what we had to say.

News Release | TexPIRG

AUSTIN -- Sens. Kamala Harris, Jeff Merkley, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Tina Smith, Diane Feinstein and Catherine Cortez Masto introduced a bill Thursday aimed at helping local school districts transition to all-electric transportation. The bill sets up a federal grant program, authorizing $1 billion over five years for grants of up to $2 million per school district, to replace diesel school buses with electric school buses, invest in charging infrastructure, and support workforce development.

Over 25 million American children, and roughly 3 million Texas children, as well as thousands of school bus drivers, breathe polluted air on traditional diesel yellow school buses every day. Diesel pollution stunts the growth of kids’ lungs and worsens asthma symptoms, and has also been linked to poorer academic performance.

Bay Scoggin, the Director of the Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG), issued the following statement:

“Our kids shouldn’t have to breathe dirty, dangerous air just to get to school. As the negative health impacts of long-term exposure to diesel exhaust become clearer, the need to move to zero-emission school buses becomes more urgent. We applaud and endorse this proposal, because it will help protect the health of America’s children.

“Texas can look at this as a model and expand the Texas Clean School Bus Program, which currently has only $6.1 million, despite requests for funding exceeding $11.5 million. TexPIRG applauds the Legislature’s decision to draw down the balance of the Texas Emissions Reduction Program (TERP), and we hope to see a sizable portion of those moneys directed to such a successful public health and clean air endeavor.”

“The possibility of these two programs working in conjunction is the commitment we need to clean up our air and address climate change. We have to electrify our transportation system as quickly as possible. And given that air pollution has disproportionate health effects on children, there is no better place to kickstart that transition than with school buses. The Clean School Bus Act will help school districts get the resources they need to ensure that every child has healthy air to breathe and a safe ride to school.”

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U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.

TexPIRG is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being.

Public Health | U.S. PIRG

Ban Roundup

As cancer victims hold Monsanto accountable in court, governors should act to ban Roundup unless and until it's proven safe.

 

Antibiotics | U.S. PIRG

Hold the Antibiotics Wendy’s

A recent estimate suggests that as many as 162,000 people die from antibiotic-resistant infections every year. We delivered a message to Wendy’s CEO and shareholders: Get antibiotics out of your beef supply chain.

 

Transportation | U.S. PIRG

Volkswagen settlement scorecard

Volkswagen was caught cheating emissions laws and settled with federal authorities. The settlement included nearly $3 billion for the Environmental Mitigation Trust. How well does our state rank on plans for investing VW mitigation trust funds in clean transportation projects?

 

Budget | U.S. PIRG

Blueprint for tomorrow

Our report highlights which investments will alleviate the most dire problems America faces as a result of crumbling or outdated infrastructure.

 
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