2023 Week Five: Infrastructure: Building and Maintaining the Physical, Social and Civic Underpinnings of Society

July 22–29

Somewhere along the way, infrastructure became boring — the awe and joy with which a child greets the weekly garbage truck and hours spent on felt playmats of city streets give way to the “unsexy” business of routine maintenance and iterative improvements, of taxes and policy. Yet nothing remains more critical to our public lives than the evolution and safety of these systems. A year and a half after the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, we offer a report card on progress toward shoring up, reinvigorating and reinventing the systems and structures that undergird American society, and perhaps rekindle our fascination in the built world around us. We’ll discuss the usual — the planes, trains and automobiles of our youthful fascinations, as well as roads, bridges, utilities and the like — but also ask whether our definition of “infrastructure” needs to be expanded. And what does the infrastructure of the future look like, and which places are leading the way (and how?)?