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Review Essay

How to Fix America’s Infrastructure

Build, Baby, Build

In This Review

The Road Taken: The History and Future of America’s Infrastructure
The Road Taken: The History and Future of America’s Infrastructure
By Henry Petroski
Bloomsbury, 2016, 336 pp. Purchase

Just after 6 PM on August 1, 2007, at the peak of rush hour, 111 vehicles were driving across the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis when a thin metal plate in the bridge’s central span ripped. The bridge collapsed, plunging vehicles and passengers into the river more than 60 feet below. Thirteen people died, and 145 were injured.

This was not an isolated incident. In May 2013, a bridge on the I-5 north of Seattle collapsed, injuring three people, when a truck carrying an oversize load crashed into it. And in February 2015, a chunk of concrete fell from the bottom of the I-495 overpass in Maryland, crush­ing a car.

These incidents should not have come as a surprise: according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, a quarter of the United States’ bridges are structurally deficient or obsolete. Bridges are carrying more traffic, with heavier vehicles, than they were originally

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