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Concrete is not the problem [Letter]

Building MaterialLobbying

I've known Brian Dolan for nearly 25 years, back to a time when I was the concrete engineer and he was an assistant district engineer, both for the Maryland State Highway Administration. As old colleagues, I wasn't surprised to see his informative commentary on the state of our roads ("Get riled up over roadways," July 14). While I agree with his main points, that our roads are falling apart — as well as the rest of the infrastructure in our state and in our country — I was disappointed that he took the opportunity to take a shot at concrete roads and at the engineers who created our great road systems in the 1940s and 50s.

Back in a time when government actually worked, Thomas MacDonald and his assistants, Herbert Fairbanks and Frank Turner, developed our current highway system. These men were truly great engineers who made decisions on pavement type based on engineering principles and not on political pressure from the asphalt and concrete lobbies. As a result, great roads, asphalt and concrete, were built that withstood service loads well beyond design and that lasted far longer than their original estimated service lives. They were true successors to the great Roman engineers who designed the Appian Way 2,300 years ago.

We need significant improvement to our current highway systems as well as increased investment in all of our infrastructure. But it's wrong to try to score points for the asphalt industry at the expense of some of the greatest engineers our country ever produced. Instead, we should emulate these great engineers and design roads for the longest service life at the least cost to the taxpayers.

Henry B. Prenger, Baltimore

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