Our Deteriorating Infrastructure

From the Minneapolis bridge collapse to New York’s subway flooding to Boston’s troubled Big Dig, we’re having some serious transportation infrastructure problems these days. Throw in the air traffic mess, and it’s clearly not getting any easier to get around this big country of ours.

Much will be written about this issue, but a few things already stand out. The Boston Globe had a thoughtful op-ed piece by Stephen Flynn about the consequences of neglecting our roads, bridges and the like in the name of low taxes. I was especially struck by Flynn’s observation about our loss of interest in public works:

Most Americans cannot recall a time when great public works were a source of national pride. It was our grandparents and great-grandparents who celebrated the building of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Holland Tunnel, and the Hoover Dam. The Eisenhower Interstate Highway System marked its 50th anniversary last year.

I’ve wondered about that. Why have we stopped building great things to serve the public good? Why are we barely maintaining the ones we have?

And it’s not just roads and bridges. It’s the kind of cultural infrastructure that maintains a quality of life and invites visitors.

A few years ago I went to the new public library in Montreal, the Grande Bibliothèque du Québec, a massive glass building filled with grand flourishes and surrounded by modern art. I was trying to remember the last time I saw something that new and impressive in my own country, but I couldn’t think of anything.


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