Stop the Puget Sound Gateway Boondoggle

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

It's time to shift Washington’s transportation priorities

These days, more and more of us are moving off the roads. Across the country, and here in Washington, 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 Puget Sound Gateway Boondoggle

In Washington, the state government is proposing to spend between 2.8 and 3 billion dollars on a wasteful highway expansion that connects State Routes 509 and 167 and Interstate 5, collectively known as the Puget Sound Gateway project. The plan includes adding up to 2 additional lanes of travel in each direction along both state routes, and additional 1-2 lanes of tolling along all three routes.

This unnecessary and wasteful expansion is based on designs first conceived of more than 60 years ago. This, at a time when the state has declared driving is likely to stagnate for decades. What’s more, according to the state’s own data, toll revenue would only account for a small part of the total cost of completed construction. 

While supporters claim the project is necessary to better connect the state’s ports with its highways, there are far more effective ways to invest our transportation dollars. 

Ultimately, there are more pressing and sustainable transportation issues that limited state funds should be spent on instead – such as the 372 structurally deficient bridges in the state. Moreover, investments in the bus system, light rail in Seattle, and high-speed rail between Spokane and Seattle could create a higher quality of living for everyone. 

Moving Washington forward 

We need your help. Tell the governor to invest in sustainable alternatives and already existing infrastructure rather than waste up to 3 billion dollars in needless highway expansion. We deserve to have a safe, reliable transportation system that offers real options for however people might want to get around. Stopping this highway boondoggles is an important first step for getting us there.

Issue updates

Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Wall Street Ramps Up Attacks on Wall Street Reform | Ed Mierzwinski

On Friday, the House overwhelmingly approved a Wall Street-driven proposal to weaken oversight of private equity firms, taking a chunk out of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. But wait, there's so much more: On Tuesday the House Financial Services Committee takes up the so-called "Financial Choice Act," which eviscerates most of Dodd-Frank's key reforms, from stripping powers of the Financial Stability Oversight Council to repealing the Volcker Rule, which reins in risky betting practices that use depositors' money. As for the CFPB (which just this week issued its biggest fine to date, $100 million against Wells Fargo Bank for opening hundreds of thousands of fake and secret consumer accounts to meet sales goals), the proposal would defund and defang it and delay or stop its efforts to rein in unfair practices of payday lenders, debt collectors and banks. Many of the Financial Choice Act's provisions also pose threats as budget bill "riders."

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News Release | WashPIRG Foundation | Financial Reform

Report: Analysis of Payday Complaints Reveals Need for Stronger Federal Protections

Consumer complaints about payday loans to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) show a critical need for strengthening the agency’s proposed rule to rein in payday loans and other high-cost lending, according to a report released today by the WashPIRG Foundation.

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Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Predatory Loans & Predatory Loan Complaints

This is the seventh in a series of reports that review complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In this report, we explore consumer complaints about predatory loans, categorized in the database as payday loans, installment loans, and auto title loans.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Good news! CFPB Adding Consumer Ratings of Company Responses to Complaint Database | Ed Mierzwinski

The CFPB is making a good public consumer complaint database better. In 2015, the CFPB added optional consumer narratives, or stories, to its public consumer complaint database, giving other consumers, researchers and even other firms a new way to help study complaint patterns. Now, it will give consumers a chance to “rate the company’s handling of his or her complaint on a one-to-five scale and provide a narrative description in support of the rating.”

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

More Than 350,000 Urge KFC to Prevent Abuse of Antibiotics in Its Chicken Supply

Today, representatives from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Food Animals Concern Trust (FACT) will deliver more than 350,000 petitions from consumers nationwide to Kentucky Fried Chicken’s (KFC) headquarters in Louisville, while calling on the nation’s largest fried chicken chain to end the routine use of antibiotics by chicken producers in its supply chain. The petition signatures were also collected by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and CREDO Action. 

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News Release | WashPIRG | Democracy

New study shows outsized role of elite donors, non-Seattle donors in 2015 City Council race

A new analysis by WashPIRG has found that just 1,589 contributors, whose individual contributions were worth $500 or more, provided more than half of the $2.5 million raised by candidates up to the August primary election. Candidates raised more than $450,000, or roughly one-fifth of all funds, from 596 non-resident donors who gave contributions worth $500 or more. Only 18 percent of the money raised by all Seattle city council candidates leading up to the August 4 primary came from small donors giving $100 or less.  Small dollar donors don’t have much of a voice when 82 percent of the money raised by candidates during the 2015 primary came from contributions of more than $100. The study also looks at how Honest Elections Seattle will empower regular voters and limit the influence of big money in local elections.

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News Release | WashPIRG | Public Health

Statement on Subway’s Switch to Meat Raised without Routine Antibiotics

On October 19, 2015, Subway announced it would stop serving chicken raised with antibiotics that are important to human health before March 2016 – and to stop serving pork and beef within the next six years, or by 2025.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

PIRGs, Others Ask CFPB & FTC To Investigate Experian/T-Mobile Data Breach

In a letter sent today, a number of state PIRGs and other leading privacy and consumer groups urged the CFPB and FTC to fully investigate the recent breach of an Experian subsidary that exposed 15 million T-Mobile customer and applicant records to the threat of new account identity theft. The letter asked whether the regulators could require Experian and the other two nationwide credit bureaus -- TransUnion and Equifax -- to give victims free security freezes to protect their credit reports.

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News Release | WashPIRG | Tax

Deepwater Horizon Settlement Comes with $5.35 Billion Tax Windfall

Today’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice of a proposed $20.8 billion out-of-court settlement with BP to resolve charges related to the Gulf Oil spill allows the corporation to write off $15.3 billion of the total payment as an ordinary cost of doing business tax deduction. The majority of the settlement is comprised of tax deductible natural resource damages payments, restoration, and reimbursement to government, with just $5.5 billion explicitly labeled a non-tax-deductible Clean Water Act penalty. This proposed settlement would allow BP to claim an estimated $5.35 billion as a tax windfall, significantly decreasing the public value of the agreement, and nearly offsetting the cost of the non-deductible penalty.

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News Release | WashPIRG | Consumer Protection

Statement on Experian Breach of T-Mobile Customer Data

In the wake of a massive data breach affecting Experian’s computers holding 15 million files of T-Mobile hacked customers and applicants, we question why the firms are offering credit monitoring instead of paying to place credit, or security, freezes on all three of each victim’s credit reports. Only the security or credit freeze, available in any state, stops new account identity theft. Potential victims should freeze all of their “Big 3” credit reports from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

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Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection, Higher Ed

Private Loans, Public Complaints

This report focuses on complaints about private student loans, which are the riskiest and most expensive way to pay for a college education. Private student loans make up just 15% of the student loan market. However, student loan borrowers with more than $40,000 in total debt disproportionately carry private student loans. The report highlights private student loan borrowers are beginning to use the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as an outlet to solve issues pertaining to their relationship with their lenders. 

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Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Democracy

McCutcheon Money

We project that striking the aggregate limit would bring more than $1 billion in additional campaign contributions from elite donors through the 2020 election cycle.

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Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Transportation

A New Way to Go

Early evidence suggests that new innovations in technology and social networking are beginning to change America’s transportation landscape. New transportation services are providing people with an abundance of new options, helping to overcome barriers to the use of non-driving forms of transportation, and shifting the economics behind individuals’ travel choices. Collectively, they are also opening up the opportunity for more Americans to adopt “car-free” and “car-light” lifestyles with dramatically less driving.

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Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Big Banks, Big Complaints

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was established in 2010 in the wake of the worst financial crisis in decades. Its mission is to identify dangerous and unfair financial practices, to educate consumers about these practices, and to regulate the financial institutions that perpetuate them. 

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Report | WASHPIRG Foundation | Transportation

Moving Off the Road

Americans have cut their per-person driving miles in 46 states plus Washington, D.C., since the middle of the last decade. The states with the biggest reductions in driving miles generally were not the states hit hardest by the economic downturn. The majority—almost three-quarters—of the states where per-person driving miles declined more quickly than the national average actually saw smaller increases in unemployment compared to the rest of the nation.In Washington state, driving per person in has fallen nearly 9 percent since 1999—it's peak driving year.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

We oppose latest effort to weaken CFPB, other bank regulators | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, the House Financial Services Committee holds its latest cattle-call markup of a package of industry-backed bills designed to weaken consumer, taxpayer, depositor and investor protections. We've signed a letter opposing the so-called TAILOR (Taking Account of Institutions with Low Operation Risk) Act, which piles redundant requirements onto the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other regulators to do what they already do by existing law--treat small banks and credit unions differently than mega-banks. Also, the PIRG-backed Americans for Financial Reform sent up a letter opposing the TAILOR Act and 6 more of the 10 bills on the agenda because they are designed to weaken consumer, taxpayer, depositor and investor protections.

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Blog Post | Public Health

The Flint Water Crisis: What You Need to Know | Anna Low-Beer

With President Obama clearing the way for federal aid in Flint, Michigan last month, the water crisis is receiving immediate attention. The city was badly in need of a short-term fix, but what about the future of affected Flint citizens?

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

100+ Groups Oppose Provisions That Threaten Public Protections | Mike Litt

The White House is expected to release its fiscal year 2017 budget proposal tomorrow. U.S. PIRG and various state PIRGs joined a coalition of more than 100 groups that sent the following letter calling on President Barack Obama and all 535 members of Congress to oppose any federal appropriations bill that contains ideological policy riders. 

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB Criticizes Banks Re Account Opening and Overdrafts, Offers Consumer Tips | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, the CFPB is holding a field hearing in Louisville on problems consumers face when opening bank accounts. It finds that big banks frequently offer consumers expensive accounts where they risk overdraft fees instead of affordable accounts. Further, the CFPB finds that the practices of specialty "bad check" credit bureaus make it harder to open accounts. The CFPB issued warnings to both the banks and credit bureaus while providing consumers with new tips and advice.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Nicely Done, Attorneys General | Steve Blackledge

This month 12 state attorneys general highlighted the importance of state power to regulate toxic chemicals. We thank them for their efforts. 

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