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Too Big to Fall: America's Failing Infrastructure and the Way Forward Hardcover – November 9, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The deadly collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis awakened Americans to the perils of our aging infrastructure, but as LePatner points out, it was a disaster years in the making. In this painstaking analysis of both the Minneapolis tragedy and other structural failures, he reveals that government failures at every level have resulted in our reliance on roads and bridges that were never designed to sustain the volume of traffic we now generate. Politics plays a huge part here, but so does the problem of keeping the public interested in a vital yet dull subject. Citing Willa Cather’s Alexander’s Bridge, LePatner points out that “engineers were once a type of American cultural hero.” Poems were written about them; they remade the landscape and transformed the country. That was the era of “steel and concrete,” however, when expansion was the story that mattered. LaPatner makes it clear that today’s problems of management and maintenance are just as important, and require a similar commitment. Detailed and determined, this is a call to arms ignored at our own peril. --Colleen Mondor

Review

“This well-researched book on the US’s failure to maintain its bridges and highways straddles political advocacy and scholarly work. . . . The chapters on the history of highway funding in the US, public-private partnerships, and the causes of systemic failures to maintain what has been built are excellent. . . . [This is] an excellent book for students and professionals, which one hopes will heighten the sense of urgency to increase funding for highway and bridge maintenance. There is no comparable book. The index and 37 pages of endnotes are excellent. Highly recommended.”—Choice


“This book offers professional and armchair engineers a wealth of history to place future road failures in perspective.”—Seattle Times


“The deadly collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis awakened Americans to the perils of our aging infrastructure . . . In this painstaking analysis of both the Minneapolis tragedy and other structural failures, [LePatner] reveals that government failures at every level have resulted in our reliance on roads and bridges that were never designed to sustain the volume of traffic we now generate . . . Detailed and determined, this is a call to arms ignored at our own peril.” —Colleen Mondor, BookList
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Foster Publishing (November 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0984497803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0984497805
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #167,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Too Big to Fall is too important not to be read by elected and government officials and anyone who cares about the health of our cities, states, and country. LePatner, by concentrating on a major element of public works--our country's 600,000 bridges, brings into focus the causes and solutions that, if followed, in the long run would actually cost less and expose us to less risk. The release of this book could not be more timely. Thousands of local and state officials are facing record deficits. The easiest areas to cut are the nearly invisible activities of preventive maintenance. No large constituencies will be marching on city halls or statehouses to clamor to save the jobs of bridge painters or oilers. But now at least government public works managers and citizens have the source to educate elected officials and their bean counters in the penny-wise-pound-foolish choice of cutting maintenance now, only to face bigger costs and higher risks in just a few years. I was in charge of New York City's bridges after the fiscal crisis of the 1970s. On my watch in the 1980s, we had fatal collapses on the Brooklyn Bridge and the elevated FDR drive, as well as emergency closures of more than a score of other bridges. LePatner offers us a better choice.
--Sam Schwartz, Sam Schwartz Engineering
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Format: Hardcover
We need $2.2 trillion to fix our existing infrastructure, as well as reform of how we make choices. ('Look-good' and new projects are over-funded relative to basic maintenance.) We also need a more reliable system of managing and contracting for those projects, says the author.

The main character within the book is the I-35W bridge that collapsed in 2007. Turns out it had been identified as deficient for 16 straight years. The 'second main character' is bridges in general. As for water and sewer lines, power distribution, etc. - those topics are just not addressed.

Interesting to learn that only after the I-35W bridge collapsed did Gov. Palenty drop his opposition to raising the state's gas tax. Thus, he must share a significant portion of the blame. Further, in 2003, he appointed his Lt. Gov. as Highway Commissioner, creating a political environment that replaced its prior professional focus. (Squeezing maintenance until a disaster occurs is not good leadership, and in my opinion should disqualify Palenty for any further office.)

Private funding of maintenance brings increased conflict over whether enough maintenance is being performed, and whether it is being done properly. (Creating toll roads adds overheads for toll collections.)

Visual inspections of bridges are not standardized - the results vary widely between inspectors. Inadequate training is also a common problem.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
LePatner studies the history of the maintenance and ultimate outcomes of two bridges -- one in Minneapolis that collapsed, and one in New York City that was closed and repaired before it could collapse, and tries to draw conclusions concerning all of America's under-maintained highway infrastructure. While informative and comprehensive, the writing is somewhat dull and the author uses too many initials for too many agencies, making he narrative hard to follow. Nevertheless, this book is must reading for members of Congress and government officials responsible for bridges, tunnels and highways because, as LePatner convincingly concludes, our national road and highway system is at grave risk of decay and collapse because not enough money and attention is paid to maintenance and bringing sub-standard structures up to current engineering standards.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
One of only two books in my life that I never finished. Repetitious and boring. Topic could have been handled as a long form article rather than a book. Would have made a great Kindle single if it were more to the point.
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Format: Hardcover
"Barry LePatner makes an airtight case in Too Big to Fall that our nation's road infrastructure is becoming a liability, a drag on our productivity rather than an asset. His heavily researched book aptly warns us that if our nation's infrastructure continues to fail, so too does America. With China's rise, this book sends a timely warning of our need to compete with the East. LePatner's ultimate optimism and professional experiences lead us to a solution that we need to take to heart."
--Dan McNichol, Bestselling Author of The Big Dig, The Roads That Built America, and Asphalt in America; Columnist for Rebuilding America's Infrastructure
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Format: Hardcover
Barry LePatner has emerged as one of the nation's leading advocates for infrastructure reform. Too Big to Fall provides a thought-provoking examination of America's infrastructure dilemma. It is eye-opening and sobering. Hopefully this work will resonate with those in authority to heighten their sense of urgency to aggressively address this threat to our nation's future.
Gary La Point
Assistant Professor,
Supply Chain Management,
Syracuse University
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author has obviously done his homework on the topic. However, the last few chapters of the book seem to wander a little from point to point. The author seems to even contradict himself from time to time. His chapter on the way forward presents very few real world solutions.

This is a good introductory book into bridge management and inspection in the United States, but it doesn't really present a whole picture.
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