In recent weeks, there’s been a great deal of media attention on a train that derailed in Ohio. The derailment highlights a contradiction that has haunted American politics. On one hand, there is an increasingly vocal set of progressives and libertarians who have dreams of revitalizing American cities with big infrastructure projects. They want high-speed rail, fifteen minute cities, lots of cycling, walkable streets, and tall apartment buildings. These movements often rally around acronyms – YIMBY, NUMTOT, and the like. On the other hand, there is the infrastructure that actually exists in the United States. It’s crumbling, and it’s expensive to maintain, let alone replace. Between urbanist dreams and rusty realities there sits President Biden. Biden was faced with a pivotal decision. He could shore up the existing infrastructure, fighting back against the rust. He could commit America to a new paradigm, replacing what’s decaying with new ideas. He could not do both. He chose to do neither.
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