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Megan McArdle

The Road Not Taken: What If Infrastructure Were Actually Planned?

Megan McArdle sits down with an expert on the subject: her dad.
Top priority. Theoretically.
Photographer: Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg

If there’s one thing that seemingly every politician can agree on, it’s the awesomeness of infrastructure. But this conversation is often distressingly vague. We do not, after all, build “infrastructure”; we build roads, tunnels, bridges, power plants, water projects, sewers and rail systems. Each of these has individual costs and benefits that have to be weighed against each other; they cannot be approved or disapproved in a giant lump, like motherhood or apple pie.

I find this frustrating because I grew up in a household with an infrastructure maven. My father, Frank McArdle, served as the first commissioner of New York’s Department of Environmental Protection. Then he spent 20 years leading a trade association for the heavy construction industry in New York, which is to say, the people who build all that great infrastructure. In 2007, he was appointed to the Senate's National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, whose final report you can read here