The Road Taken: The History and Future of America’s Infrastructure

Henry Petroski. Bloomsbury, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-1-63286-360-7
Public infrastructure is often deemed interesting only to policy wonks, but Petroski (The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance), a professor of history and civil engineering at Duke University, proves that he can make it accessible and fascinating for a wider readership. His goal is to create a more informed electorate that will weigh in with political leaders about long-standing safety issues posed by obsolete and decrepit infrastructure. But the book is more than a laundry list of trouble spots; Petroski offers historical context for today’s challenges, including the debate over whether the federal government or the states should pick up the tab for repair work and new construction. The inclusion of colorful details (Illinois courts once deemed stop signs for city streets a “violation of the right of individuals to cross streets”) prevents the material from coming across as dry. Petroski doesn’t underplay the difficult of making progress in the face of Washington gridlock, but he makes the cost of inaction clear, credibly estimating that “the nation’s degrading infrastructure will cost American households... in excess of $150 trillion” over the next three decades. His book may well move readers to lobby their elected officials. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/02/2015
Release date: 02/16/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-1-63286-362-1
MP3 CD - 978-1-5318-6492-7
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