Robert Moses: Great Builder of the 20th Century

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1977, Vol. 47, Issue 10, Pg. 121-126

Document Type: Feature article


In building the first major U.S. public work —- the Erie Canal —- the engineering challenge was to cross hundreds of miles of farmland and forests with technologies relatively new to the United States. In Robert Moses' time —- 100 years later —- the challenge was to get public works built in big cities —- and problems with people proved to be among the toughest. Moses got things built, and so successfully that he might be called Mr. Public Works for the $27 billion in public works he created —- parkways, parks, bridges, tunnels and a hydropower complex. Reportedly even the Interstate Highway System owes much to Mr. Moses. He succeeded because he learned how to play the game of politics and power: eventually that got him into trouble, says Robert Caro in The Power Broker, his noted biography of Moses, which is here excerpted. The unvarnished portrait has been called nasty, venomous and vindictive by the nearly 89-year-old Moses, who is an Honorary Member of ASCE. He suggests that readers look at the record instead.

Subject Headings: Infrastructure | Highways and roads | Canals | Agriculture | Forests | Parks | Bridges | Tunnels | United States

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