Generation after generation, giant public works projects have altered the American landscape. The Erie Canal and the transcontinental railroad come to mind. So do massive urban sewer and sanitation systems, the Tennessee Valley Authority, rural electrification, the Hoover Dam, the Interstate System, the subway networks in San Francisco and Washington, the Big Dig in Boston … and the list abruptly stops.
For the first time in memory, the nation has no outsize public works project under way. The Big Dig, with its three and a half miles of underground highways channeling traffic beneath downtown Boston, was completed in December 2007, the month the Great Recession began.