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America’s highway system, more than 200,000 miles of freeways and bridges, is the largest infrastructure project in the world. It’s a feat of engineering that laid the foundation for decades of economic growth and prosperity.
By now, it’s also become a cliché to point out that it’s falling apart. In fact, the massive size of the highway systems is also its weak link. We built it, we’re dependent on it, and like all things made by man, now it is breaking, crumbling, and in some cases, falling down.
Back in 1932, the United States was suffering through the Great Depression, and its love affair with cars was just starting.
Just north of Newark, New Jersey, the Pulaski Skyway became the country’s first so-called “superhighway” — a 3.5-mile raised roadway running over the top of some of the most heavily industrialized property in the country.
Even if you’ve never heard of the Pulaski, you’ve probably seen it — the skyway looms in the background during the opening credits of “The Sopranos.” In the early 1930s, the only people who knew how to build something this big were railroad engineers, and that’s why the skyway looks like a railroad bridge, complete with steel trusses, rivets and cantilevers. It’s also 80 years old and falling apart. […]