Sir, Although I agree with Lawrence Summers that public works projects often grind on unnecessarily, I should point out that I read his article “ Crumbling infrastructure signals a loss of collective faith” (December 8) while passing over the very bridge he complains about. The Boston subway continues to operate under a normal schedule during the comprehensive reconstruction of the Longfellow Bridge. Also, I don’t understand Professor Summers’ objection to safety nets. Would he prefer that Harvard rowers be subject to bombardment by chunks of masonry when they glide under the arches of the bridge?
Incidentally, this same crossing was the subject of a court case, Charles River Bridge v Warren Bridge, argued by the New England orator and politician Daniel Webster in 1837. Webster lost. A populist, Jacksonian Supreme Court ruled that legislators should take into account the broad effect on commerce when granting a charter for a bridge.
This precedent bolsters Prof Summers’ incisive argument that we need to devote ample resources to refurbish our infrastructure. I simply wish to remind him that although General George Patton’s army may have thrown a temporary span across the Rhine in a day, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and rehabilitation of a landmark bridge may just take a while.
Somerville, MA, US
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