ENR’s “Low & Slow Across America’s Infrastructure” tour started with a basic idea: Drive a car as old as the interstate highway system across the U.S. to identify infrastructure progress and critical needs. Since author Dan McNichol and ENR Senior Transportation Editor Aileen Cho trekked across the country this summer in “Mrs. Martin,” a rusty 1949 Hudson, the tour has sparked a broader conversation about U.S. infrastructure.
Below are examples of how this series is making a difference for the industry.
Projects, Politics, People
With tour leaders Cho and McNichol, along with a little help from ENR Multimedia Editor Luke Abaffy, ENR Mountain States and Contractor Business Quarterly Editor Mark Shaw, myself and others, the crew documented some dazzling moments AIR TIME McNichol, Cho and Littleton (from left) stand atop a bridge pier about 300 ft above the Ohio River. in modern construction. Massive water works—such as the $900-million upgrade of the Folsom Dam, near Sacramento— illustrate the fragility of natural resources and the risks of containment failure.
The crew learned valuable lessons about everyday construction, too. No matter “how big or small the project, it matters,” Cho says. Mrs. Martin also has ignited constructive discussion. When the crew stopped over in my hometown of Kansas City, Mo., I tuned into a podcast featuring Cho and McNichol. A caller from the affluent Brookside neighborhood asked if all this talk of broken infrastructure is just meant to pad the pockets of the construction industry. In other words, he wanted to see evidence of fiscal discipline, a valid issue. We also met infrastructure heros, such as Kentucky engineer Jeremiah Littleton. He stuck his neck out to help ENR gain access to the Ohio River Bridges downtown jobsite while others tried to keep us out. Nobody got hurt, and the insider’s view clinched the cover for our July 6 issue. “He believed in what the ‘Low & Slow’ tour was attempting to do: spread the word about the need for critical infrastructure,” McNichol says. Several readers have asked about future infrastructure tours. Perhaps we’ll see you on the road.