Category Archives: Infrastructure

A Country Breaking Down

by Elizabeth Drew, published February 14, 2016

2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure
by the American Society of Civil Engineers
available at infrastructurereportcard.org

Rust: The Longest War
by Jonathan Waldman
Simon and Schuster, 288 pp., $26.95

Move: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead
by Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Norton, 325 pp., $26.95

The Road Taken: The History and Future of America’s Infrastructure
by Henry Petroski
Bloomsbury, 322 pp., $28.00

Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath
by Ted Koppel
Crown, 279 pp., $26.00

Rescue workers gathered below the Interstate 35W bridge in downtown Minneapolis after it collapsed and fell into the Mississippi River and onto its banks during evening rush hour, August 2007
Rescue workers gathered below the Interstate 35W bridge in downtown Minneapolis after it collapsed and fell into the Mississippi River and onto its banks during evening rush hour, August 2007

It would be helpful if there were another word for “infrastructure”: it’s such an earnest and passive word for the blood vessels of this country, the crucial conveyors and connections that get us from here to there (or not) and the ports that facilitate our trade (or don’t), as well as the carriers of information, in particular broadband (if one is connected to it), and other unreliable structures. The word “crisis” is also overused, applied to the unimportant as well as the crucial. But this country has an infrastructure crisis.

The near-total failure of our political institutions to invest for the future, eschewing what doesn’t yield the quick payoff, political and physical, has left us with hopelessly clogged traffic, at risk of being on a bridge that collapses, or on a train that flies off defective rails, or with rusted pipes carrying our drinking water. Broadband is our new interstate highway system, but not everyone has access to it—a division largely based on class. Depending on the measurement used, the United States ranks from fourteenth to thirtieth among all nations in its investments in infrastructure. The wealthiest nation on earth is nowhere near the top.

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