Hot Best Seller

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

Availability: Ready to download

Physical infrastructure in the United States is crumbling. The American Society of Civil Engineers has, in its latest report, given American roads and bridges a grade of D and C+, respectively, and has described roughly sixty-five thousand bridges in the United States as "structurally deficient." This crisis--and one need look no further than the I-35W bridge collapse in M Physical infrastructure in the United States is crumbling. The American Society of Civil Engineers has, in its latest report, given American roads and bridges a grade of D and C+, respectively, and has described roughly sixty-five thousand bridges in the United States as "structurally deficient." This crisis--and one need look no further than the I-35W bridge collapse in Minnesota to see that it is indeed a crisis--shows little sign of abating short of a massive change in attitude amongst politicians and the American public. In The Road Taken, acclaimed historian Henry Petroski explores our core infrastructure from historical and contemporary perspectives and explains how essential their maintenance is to America's economic health. Recounting the long history behind America's highway system, Petroski reveals the genesis of our interstate numbering system (even roads go east-west, odd go north-south), the inspiration behind the center line that has divided roads for decades, and the creation of such taken-for-granted objects as guardrails, stop signs, and traffic lights--all crucial parts of our national and local infrastructure. His history of the rebuilding of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge reveals the complex and challenging interplay between government and industry inherent in the conception, funding, design, and building of major infrastructure projects, while his forensic analysis of the street he lives on--its potholes, gutters, and curbs--will engage homeowners everywhere. A compelling work of history, The Road Taken is also an urgent clarion call aimed at American citizens, politicians, and anyone with a vested interest in our economic well-being. The road we take in the next decade toward rebuilding our aging infrastructure will in large part determine our future national prosperity.


Compare

Physical infrastructure in the United States is crumbling. The American Society of Civil Engineers has, in its latest report, given American roads and bridges a grade of D and C+, respectively, and has described roughly sixty-five thousand bridges in the United States as "structurally deficient." This crisis--and one need look no further than the I-35W bridge collapse in M Physical infrastructure in the United States is crumbling. The American Society of Civil Engineers has, in its latest report, given American roads and bridges a grade of D and C+, respectively, and has described roughly sixty-five thousand bridges in the United States as "structurally deficient." This crisis--and one need look no further than the I-35W bridge collapse in Minnesota to see that it is indeed a crisis--shows little sign of abating short of a massive change in attitude amongst politicians and the American public. In The Road Taken, acclaimed historian Henry Petroski explores our core infrastructure from historical and contemporary perspectives and explains how essential their maintenance is to America's economic health. Recounting the long history behind America's highway system, Petroski reveals the genesis of our interstate numbering system (even roads go east-west, odd go north-south), the inspiration behind the center line that has divided roads for decades, and the creation of such taken-for-granted objects as guardrails, stop signs, and traffic lights--all crucial parts of our national and local infrastructure. His history of the rebuilding of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge reveals the complex and challenging interplay between government and industry inherent in the conception, funding, design, and building of major infrastructure projects, while his forensic analysis of the street he lives on--its potholes, gutters, and curbs--will engage homeowners everywhere. A compelling work of history, The Road Taken is also an urgent clarion call aimed at American citizens, politicians, and anyone with a vested interest in our economic well-being. The road we take in the next decade toward rebuilding our aging infrastructure will in large part determine our future national prosperity.

30 review for The Road Taken: The History and Future of America's Infrastructure

  1. 5 out of 5

    James

    I don't have the verbosity today to write a review that properly explains my feelings. The short version is, this book shouldn't say "History" in the title - this is more "Short unrelated essays on my feelings about some bridges and stuff in New York; also I google a little bit and added some things I saw in headlines of a few articles". I don't have the verbosity today to write a review that properly explains my feelings. The short version is, this book shouldn't say "History" in the title - this is more "Short unrelated essays on my feelings about some bridges and stuff in New York; also I google a little bit and added some things I saw in headlines of a few articles".

  2. 5 out of 5

    Aerin

    Started strong, got bogged down in multiple chapters on politics and financing, fizzled out somewhere around the tenth anecdote about the author's driveway. Started strong, got bogged down in multiple chapters on politics and financing, fizzled out somewhere around the tenth anecdote about the author's driveway.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David Webber

    OK, so it's probably no surprise that a civil engineer like me loved this book. But it's a great read for anyone interested in the history and nature of our public infrastructure and the ongoing needs that threaten it each day. Petroski is a civil engineering and history professor at Duke University, and I've read most of his other books which are also excellent. He mixes a good amount of interesting history of specific projects with a modern perspective of our ongoing needs and research - from OK, so it's probably no surprise that a civil engineer like me loved this book. But it's a great read for anyone interested in the history and nature of our public infrastructure and the ongoing needs that threaten it each day. Petroski is a civil engineering and history professor at Duke University, and I've read most of his other books which are also excellent. He mixes a good amount of interesting history of specific projects with a modern perspective of our ongoing needs and research - from the Romans to experimental techniques. Also there is a good bit of economic and political history regarding infrastructure, including some prominent fails of the past and a great section on privately-funded infrastructure projects.

  4. 4 out of 5

    B. Rule

    This is basically a book written by your rambling grandpa who used to be a civil engineer. It's got some really interesting facts about the history of infrastructure sprinkled throughout, but they're buried in a text that is otherwise disorganized, dry, and weirdly pedantic. Petroski feels the need to devote many pages to defining basic terms everyone knows or describing objects familiar to everyone. He has a whole paragraph defining a "shunpike", as though you can't figure out that it just mean This is basically a book written by your rambling grandpa who used to be a civil engineer. It's got some really interesting facts about the history of infrastructure sprinkled throughout, but they're buried in a text that is otherwise disorganized, dry, and weirdly pedantic. Petroski feels the need to devote many pages to defining basic terms everyone knows or describing objects familiar to everyone. He has a whole paragraph defining a "shunpike", as though you can't figure out that it just means that people don't like to pay tolls, for god's sake! The book is "organized" around the verses of Robert Frost's famous poem, but all this means is that a phrase from the poem titles each chapter, although the chapter itself likely has [email protected]*k-all to do with the quote. Indeed, many of the chapters don't even have an internally consistent theme, but instead appear to be a stream-of-consciousness riff on whatever vaguely infrastructural topics occurred to Petroski that day. It's a maddening thing, because out of this senescent miasma occasionally emerges a coherent and cogent thought, where he will say something intelligent about the ways in which the political process or public/private collaboration impacts infrastructure projects. Then, it's back into the soup! I really wish someone could have grabbed Petroski by the lapels and forced him to write a better book about this topic, rather than turning in these half-baked musings. This topic is inherently fascinating and he's clearly a well-informed guy, or at least he was before senility crept in...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    A good book highlighting the importance and history of America's infrastructure. A good book highlighting the importance and history of America's infrastructure.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I learned so much from this book. The origin of the traffic light was a particularly engaging story. It got a bit dry at times, going into the specific details of certain projects. Although the examples were so pertinent to the points made, I wonder if the details could be more easily summarized for those of us who merely dabble in infrastructure-related work/hobbies/activism.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cullen

    Interesting overview on transportation infrastructure

  8. 5 out of 5

    Martin Hogan

    It is a quick read. A basic overview of a handful of the pieces that sum infrastructure. It lacks characters to identify with, whether people or constructed items. This book would be better served as a heavily illustrated version with imagery of all things discussed. Engineering is highly visual and engaging; that part of the story is missing. On the plus side, it is a starting point for a first read on the topic. The projects highlighted offer some scope on how large projects are handled.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Noneareleft

    At the offset the author states that he will seek to be nonpartisan, but that all writing is bias. Far enough, and I appreciated his candor, so it didn't bother me much when he, inevitably, leaned to one side. I was hoping the read more about the history and future of infrastructure and less Petroski's own personal feelings on the matter, but alas, this was not to be. Still, it's his book he wrote it, so he gets to say what he wants. And say it he does. It seems only he and others like him are gi At the offset the author states that he will seek to be nonpartisan, but that all writing is bias. Far enough, and I appreciated his candor, so it didn't bother me much when he, inevitably, leaned to one side. I was hoping the read more about the history and future of infrastructure and less Petroski's own personal feelings on the matter, but alas, this was not to be. Still, it's his book he wrote it, so he gets to say what he wants. And say it he does. It seems only he and others like him are gifted with the vision of the anointed when he pontificates on matters, whether local or residential. I began to feel that he really believed that if only the powers that be would let all matters rest in his capable hands, the whole world would be so much better off. After his Nth citing of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman (can you see my eyes rolling all the way from here?) I knew firmly where he stood on matters. As if to drive the point home, he quotes Krugman yet one more time in opining on maters of infrastructure and Congress with the following in a chapter on fuel taxes, trust funds, and politics, "At the time, Congress was facing what essentially should have been the three perennial questions about the federal government's involvement n the nation's transportation infrastructure: How much should be spent on highways? How should this funds be raised? How should the use of those funds be credited?" Notably absent from the list is the whether the government should be involved at all. I'm not so partisan as to think that there's no role for government in infrastructure, but Petroski definitely downplayed the idea of by how much and takes the reader on a more personal journey than he does an objective one. Other readers may be better served by some of the literature found in the bibliography than in his tome itself.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David Shelton

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book is just ok. Each chapter focuses on a different part of the history of infrastructure in America. Some of the stories were interesting and some were not. The writer is an engineer who is trying to write for a broader audience. He succeeds at being fairly easy to understand, but is not necessarily very exciting. As a Civil Engineer who enjoys history I was able to push through, but I'm not sure that many others will enjoy the book. I did learn some information and it was somewhat useful This book is just ok. Each chapter focuses on a different part of the history of infrastructure in America. Some of the stories were interesting and some were not. The writer is an engineer who is trying to write for a broader audience. He succeeds at being fairly easy to understand, but is not necessarily very exciting. As a Civil Engineer who enjoys history I was able to push through, but I'm not sure that many others will enjoy the book. I did learn some information and it was somewhat useful to get a summary of the conventional wisdom on America's infrastructure history. As far as the actual thesis of the book, the writer spends a lot of time referencing the ASCE report which calls for huge increases in funding due to the poor condition of American infrastructure. As a Strong Towns advocate, it was sad that there was none or very little discussion of the overbuilt nature of our transportation system. He just repeated over and over that funding needed to be increased or the cost would get even higher. It seems fairly obvious to me that an entirely new approach is needed.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    This book was a gift, and I was very excited to read it. My whole life I've read about and experienced failing infrastructure all around me, and I'm interested in finding a better way forward. The subheading of the book describes it as the "history and future of America's infrastructure," so I thought this would be a great way to start. Instead, as I increasingly find to be the rule, the vast majority of the book concerns the historical minutiae of colors of traffic signs and the evolution of the This book was a gift, and I was very excited to read it. My whole life I've read about and experienced failing infrastructure all around me, and I'm interested in finding a better way forward. The subheading of the book describes it as the "history and future of America's infrastructure," so I thought this would be a great way to start. Instead, as I increasingly find to be the rule, the vast majority of the book concerns the historical minutiae of colors of traffic signs and the evolution of the curb. There is no original thought about the future of infrastructure, only cautionary tale of what to avoid. This book should have been sold as a history, nothing more. I've resisted the urge to give a one star rating because, as a history wonk, I always enjoy learning, and I now better understand how public works are funded. But again, I'm annoyed that a book billed as discussing the future of infrastructure dedicated no sincere thought to how we are to proceed into a radically different future.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Robert Koslowsky

    I’ve read a number of Henry Petroski’s books in the past, and I’ve enjoyed them all. In this 2016 book, The Road Taken , he delves into the American infrastructure – past, present, and future. He correctly points out, “We tend to be oblivious to much of our infrastructure, even when it is in plain sight, until something goes wrong with it.” However, I could not get into this one. That’s not to say that Petroski hasn’t brought forward a number of important historical and policy discussions over I’ve read a number of Henry Petroski’s books in the past, and I’ve enjoyed them all. In this 2016 book, The Road Taken , he delves into the American infrastructure – past, present, and future. He correctly points out, “We tend to be oblivious to much of our infrastructure, even when it is in plain sight, until something goes wrong with it.” However, I could not get into this one. That’s not to say that Petroski hasn’t brought forward a number of important historical and policy discussions over roads, bridges, railroads, and more. I agree with his overall comment, “Infrastructure investment may be thought of as a down payment on the future.” I encourage you to see what you think about what Petroski advocates and how we can get behind voting “for roads and against potholes; for fixing our bridges” and for infrastructure projects that support the common good.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Edward

    Have to agree with reviewers James and Aerin - this seemed focused on the east coast, New York in particular, and had lots of history of politics, not too much I found interesting. Maybe I should have paid more attention to the description or the prior reviewers. I skimmed a lot of this, finding some of the vignettes about bridges or infrastructure more interesting than pages and chapters of government mismanagement, disagreement, partisan politics, and corruption. But I have to acknowledge that, Have to agree with reviewers James and Aerin - this seemed focused on the east coast, New York in particular, and had lots of history of politics, not too much I found interesting. Maybe I should have paid more attention to the description or the prior reviewers. I skimmed a lot of this, finding some of the vignettes about bridges or infrastructure more interesting than pages and chapters of government mismanagement, disagreement, partisan politics, and corruption. But I have to acknowledge that, my interest aside, it was well-researched and well-written. I was looking for something more cultural about modern day traffic. I did find the last chapter, about upcoming technology like autonomous vehicles and self-healing pavement, interesting.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Stuart Woolf

    I bought this book at the local Barnes & Noble (always a gamble). The title intrigued me, but the reviews on the back cover were causes of concern. (If nobody lends their personal name to a book review, leaving newspapers and magazines to do the devil's work, then what you have is certified crap.) Alas, my phone was dead, and the adjacent woman who I WAS NOT attracted to was in no mood to consult online reviews for complete strangers. I ended up buying the book for 18 bucks. Big mistake. Other re I bought this book at the local Barnes & Noble (always a gamble). The title intrigued me, but the reviews on the back cover were causes of concern. (If nobody lends their personal name to a book review, leaving newspapers and magazines to do the devil's work, then what you have is certified crap.) Alas, my phone was dead, and the adjacent woman who I WAS NOT attracted to was in no mood to consult online reviews for complete strangers. I ended up buying the book for 18 bucks. Big mistake. Other reviewers have summed it up rather well: this book isn't a detailed history of American infrastructure, but really, it's about Henry and his interest in roads. It's sort of a WTF? book. I don't blame Henry so much as Bloomsbury for delivering the wrong product to the wrong audience. Actually, I do blame Henry for one thing, a typical New York gaffe: in Chapter 1, he writes about his childhood in Brooklyn without prefacing or contextualizing place names because, you know, NYC is the center of the universe. Last I checked, 2.5% of the American population lives in New York - and the other 97.5% doesn't give a shit.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    A surprisingly engaging work on infrastructure, of all things! A little history, a little description of the various kinds of infra and what role they play, how that infra fails, and what it takes and will take to keep it all together. SPOILER ALERT: We're not doing a very good job keeping the infra we have in decent shape and it won't get any easier as time passes. You won't stay up all night reading this all in one go but it's worth the time. I should say it's more of an in-depth introductory wo A surprisingly engaging work on infrastructure, of all things! A little history, a little description of the various kinds of infra and what role they play, how that infra fails, and what it takes and will take to keep it all together. SPOILER ALERT: We're not doing a very good job keeping the infra we have in decent shape and it won't get any easier as time passes. You won't stay up all night reading this all in one go but it's worth the time. I should say it's more of an in-depth introductory work to the broad array of motor transportation infra than a look at one particular aspect. There is nothing here of marine, rail, or mass transit infra.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Logan

    I have to give it 4 stars (instead of 3) because it is what it claims to be: a history of America’s infrastructure. As a Civil Engineer in transportation it did have a lot of interesting bits of history and information that fascinated me, but the majority of the book gave me the feeling that I was listening to a grandpa relive his glory days while sitting on his porch swing and sipping a Budweiser. There are bits of personal opinions and gripes scattered throughout. Overall, I’m glad I read it. E I have to give it 4 stars (instead of 3) because it is what it claims to be: a history of America’s infrastructure. As a Civil Engineer in transportation it did have a lot of interesting bits of history and information that fascinated me, but the majority of the book gave me the feeling that I was listening to a grandpa relive his glory days while sitting on his porch swing and sipping a Budweiser. There are bits of personal opinions and gripes scattered throughout. Overall, I’m glad I read it. Even if it did take me a couple years to finally finish it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    David

    When talking to people who are returning from their first visit to the United States, one sometimes finds that they are surprised that our country is not quite as modern as they anticipated. Indeed, we seem to be letting our infrastructure slide in ways that I didn't think possible when I was younger. Infrastructure is one of those things we take for granted until it's not there and this book points out that we're not keeping up with a sector that is vital to our economy. When talking to people who are returning from their first visit to the United States, one sometimes finds that they are surprised that our country is not quite as modern as they anticipated. Indeed, we seem to be letting our infrastructure slide in ways that I didn't think possible when I was younger. Infrastructure is one of those things we take for granted until it's not there and this book points out that we're not keeping up with a sector that is vital to our economy.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jason Weiss

    I picked this up because I've enjoyed a number of Henry Petroski's other books. Unfortunately, this one felt like kind of a chore to read. I definitely learned a few things about the history of / important issues facing our ageing infrastructure. It just felt like too much minute detail to really hold my attention. Also wasn't clear that the book had a single overarching message; more like a disconnected series of anecdotes. I picked this up because I've enjoyed a number of Henry Petroski's other books. Unfortunately, this one felt like kind of a chore to read. I definitely learned a few things about the history of / important issues facing our ageing infrastructure. It just felt like too much minute detail to really hold my attention. Also wasn't clear that the book had a single overarching message; more like a disconnected series of anecdotes.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Szymanski

    I'm a fan of Petroski's work. This one's not his best, but still solid. Seemed repetitive in some chapters. Was selfishly disappointed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel was not featured anywhere; I've always considered that quite an automotive marvel. Anyway, anyone keen on engineering history will probably enjoy. I'm a fan of Petroski's work. This one's not his best, but still solid. Seemed repetitive in some chapters. Was selfishly disappointed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel was not featured anywhere; I've always considered that quite an automotive marvel. Anyway, anyone keen on engineering history will probably enjoy.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Dumler

    Petroski is a civil engineering professor and he writes, unfortunately for the reader, like a stereotypical engineer. This book has no common theme or message; each paragraph feels disconnected from the last and jumps from fleeting thought to fleeting thought. The author clearly does not know how to leave out irrelevant information. He seems to just regurgitate anything he came across in his studies. I cannot recommend this book and could not finish it myself.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Reilly

    A good book about American infrastructure..past, present and future. Petroski's historical chapters are extremely gripping. His chapters on the decay of American Infrastructure should be read by everyone especially politicians. Other chapters can put you to sleep especially the one about sidewalks. You can skim, skip or bounce around with this one. A good book about American infrastructure..past, present and future. Petroski's historical chapters are extremely gripping. His chapters on the decay of American Infrastructure should be read by everyone especially politicians. Other chapters can put you to sleep especially the one about sidewalks. You can skim, skip or bounce around with this one.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

    Not obsessively detailed like The Pencil, but not as meandering as The Evolution of Useful Things, The Road Taken is mostly a middle ground, though it veers away in the last few chapters. Solid, but not as good as a book like The Big Roads.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael Samuels

    I liked the focus on why infrastructure is so hard to fix due to politics, lack of accurate cost/schedule estimates and the lack of will. Which does not bode well for the future. Lot of lessons here. Perhaps too much focus on a few projects. But definitely worth reading.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Dry and esoteric However it was super interesting in parts. Has some great parts on how decision making works and some neat historic stuff.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Qwerty88

    individual chapters were interesting, but overall felt choppy and didn't create a cohesive thesis or narrative. individual chapters were interesting, but overall felt choppy and didn't create a cohesive thesis or narrative.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Too unorganized, left dangling by several anecdotes. Much better histories of roads & bridges available.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    An interesting overview of America's infrastructure history and challenges. Good food for thought as we see how the US was built up and then fell apart. An interesting overview of America's infrastructure history and challenges. Good food for thought as we see how the US was built up and then fell apart.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Margery Osborne

    worth reading.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    A great primer to understanding America's infrastructure. Petroski takes the jargon out and explains how decisions are made. Highly recommended for political types who need to learn about roads. A great primer to understanding America's infrastructure. Petroski takes the jargon out and explains how decisions are made. Highly recommended for political types who need to learn about roads.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Looking for facts. Found some and a lot of filler.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...