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 shows little sign of abating short of a massive change in attitude amongst politicians and the American public.
In The Road Taken, 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.
Henry Petroski is the Aleksandar Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and a professor of history at Duke University.