For Cornwell, the contrast between Switzerland's epic tunneling through the Alps and the crumbling state of America's infrastructure couldn't be more stark.
"[There is a] silent crisis...undermining America: the creeping decay of its public infrastructure. It's happening everywhere, from potholed interstate highways and grimy railways, to congested airports and a creaking air traffic control system that only adds to the increasingly third world experience of flying in the US. And hold your breath when you cross an American bridge: a 2005 study found that fully a quarter of them were structurally inadequate or obsolete.
Another reminder is when friends return from foreign trips marvelling at the high-speed rail networks in Europe, Japan and China, or at other man-made wonders such as the Millau Viaduct in southern France. Why, they ask, can't we have this sort of thing?"
Unfortunately, the political climate in the U.S. is turning against public spending: Tea Partiers in particular, he notes, do not support public funding of infrastructure. However, without repair, the economy will crumble too.