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(CNN)If you board a train in Baltimore, headed to Washington, D.C., you'll pass over the Thomas Viaduct, a stone bridge built 180 years ago. If you pour a glass of water in Chicago or Philadelphia, it might reach you through century-old pipes. Fly into Minneapolis or Albany, New York, and you will land at an airport built in the early days of aviation.
The infrastructure decisions Americans made in the past echo today. Infrastructure investment has connected the people and industries of our vast continent with rails and roads, and it has saved lives in our cities with modern water and sewer systems.
But short-sighted infrastructure decisions have also caused serious harm -- from the demolition of urban neighborhoods for freeways in the 1950s and 1960s to the flooding of irreplaceable natural gems such as Arizona's Glen Canyon during the dam-building years of the mid-20th century.