McNichol / Gay Head Light

Dan McNichol is a number one best selling author and an award-winning journalist. His published books, articles and thought-leadership work focuses on mega construction projects in the United States and around the world.

McNichol recently created and completed a year long national media tour in a 1949 Hudson that advocated for the rebuilding of the nation’s vital civic systems with the tag: “America’s infrastructure is as old, rusty and energy defunct as this original Detroit lead-sled.” McNichol’s 33 state, 12,000 mile circumnavigation of the United States culminated in a successful statewide ballot initiative that now provides nearly 2 billion dollars of new funding for Texas’s transportation projects as part of the Lone Star State’s annual budget. Texan voters approved the measure by over 80%. McNichol worked on the landslide with funding and support from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) and the Texas Good Road’s Association.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) named McNichol as one of nation’s outstanding journalists in 2014 and previously in 2003. He is the recipient of the Robert F. Boger Award for outstanding construction writing for his chronicling of the catastrophic I-35W bridge collapse. His writing and work have appeared in many publications including: The New York Times, USA Today, and Engineering News Record (ENR). He was honored with a PhD in Engineering and Technology for his publications and his contributions to the engineering and construction industries.

A former White House Appointee, he served the President of the United States on transportation and Infrastructure policies. Immediately following his service to The White House McNichol was a chief spokesperson for one of the nation’s largest civil projects known as The Big Dig.

McNichol is a frequent contributor to worldwide media outlets including: ABC World News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) network, China Central Television (CCTV), TV Tokyo, MSNBC and PBS’s The NewsHour, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, History Channel and a frequent voice on National Public Radio (NPR).

This Spring the National Geographic Channel is scheduled to feature McNichol’s year long exploration of the nation’s infrastructure in a special film titled: Driving America.



Boston’s High Line

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Author: Dan McNichol Posted On: March 23rd, 2016 In: Uncategorized

Placemaking: The Northern Avenue Bridge restored gives Bostonians and its visitors a place to play in the Atlantic Ocean. The bridge intersects: Innovation and Financial Districts, water and land transportation systems, The Greenway and The Harbor Walk public parks. 
Re-activating the bridge tender’s house and the former five-story fireboat house with its former long dock makes the swinging bridge a destination – Boston’s version of The High Line. These structures and the bridges sidewalks, bike and rapid bus lanes will make The Northern Avenue Bridge the place to go – to be – to put in.

Stalking A Dream

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Author: Dan McNichol Posted On: January 6th, 2016 In: Uncategorized

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The Great Recession wiped out my work, my nest egg and my marriage. With a tad of hope and a ton desperation I turned to a friend. “Per Christiansen, pronounced like the fruit,” is how he introduced himself a dozen years earlier when I showed up at his garage with a project car in tow. In a coffee shop in Boston in early 2010, we agreed to circumnavigate America in a an old car.

Crisscrossing the United States of America in our shared 1951 Hudson, we had already logged over 50,000 miles. Since we met I’d been asking Per a question he refused to answer. Finally, on a long stretch of empty road on the high plains of Nevada he spoke up, “I’d say the 1949 Hudson Commodore 8 is the car I’d most like to have.” There it was – Per’s dream car. But why was the 49’ seducing him – a  hopeless romantic of rusty rides. The man born in 1936 admitted to having at least 150 cars over a lifetime. A lot of autos for a man confined to a teacher’s wage.

Per is the Hudson Whisperer. He can rehabilitate any automobile on earth. So why a 49’ Hudson Commodore 8?  Turned out Per had been living a life unlived. As a reckless 30-something in 1960 Per wrecked his 1949 Commodore on an icy bridge in rural Connecticut before he had time to fully indulge himself in the ride he had fallen for.

By January of 2011, after stalking 49’s, Per came across one we might afford. Cheap meant the vintage auto was a mechanical disaster. The 1949 Commodore 8, a Detroit original, had over 800 peeks according to eBay. Buyers remained reluctant. Bidding was non existent. The wreck was being passed off as a barn find. We decide to drive 200-miles to  take a look. On a snowy Sunday in February, 2011 we drove westward out of Boston on The Big Road. Per calls all superhighways The Big Road.

Stamford, New York is a Hudson River town where the population is as white as the village’s famed hen eggs. The chicken farming town’s population of a two thousand   hasn’t changed since the Civil War. A half century earlier, when the old car we were seeing was new, nearly every road in Stamford was a dirt road. Turns out the roads are like the census – unchanged. On a dead end, along a road of red clay, we cross a creek that our map tells us is the Western Branch of the Delaware River. Bullet holes in the door of a junked 1950s Chevy pickup abandoned next to the Hudson we’ve come to see is cause for pause. A knock on the farm house’s front door reveals an elderly woman whose name is Mrs. Martin.

Holistic U.S. Infrastructure

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Author: Dan McNichol Posted On: January 4th, 2016 In: Uncategorized

Let’s look at the megillah – the whole picture – of America’s failing infrastructure: Critical US systems are silo-ed – especially by experts. Laymen depend on professionals to see infrastructure wholly: water, waste, transit, energy, aviation, rivers, sewage, road, brown-fields, parks, schools, levees…
I spent the past 3 years touring America’s vital systems in a beat up 1949 Hudson advocating, “America’s Infrastrucure is as old, rusty and energy defunct as as my original Detroit lead-sled.” In 2015, on the last leg of the odyssey, my sponsors, the American Public Works Association and Engineering News Magazine (ENR), crossed the nation with me one last time, for a total of 15,000 miles in my wrecked Hudson. As an author on complex systems (The Big Dig, US Interstate System, American Byways & Highways) and journalist in engineering and construction I’ve documented these system failures.
Encouraging discoveries – our weak links should be shared while moving forward together.IMG_1945

Double Duty Dude

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Author: Dan McNichol Posted On: October 15th, 2015 In: Uncategorized


Jeremiah, a state employee for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, took his civil service to a higher level by securing Low & Slow crew members accesses to the Ohio River Bridge Project’s construction site after we were denied by a subcontractor on the project. His actions led to a cover story in ENR featuring the work his fellow bridge builders have dedicated themselves to completing. That day in May Jeremiah performed a double duty as overseer of construction and an impressive manipulator of media.

Jeremiah made it his mission to get us to the top of the bride tower. He believed in what the Low & Slow tour was attempting to do: Spread the word about the need for critical infrastructure. Sadly, he had to perform double duty by correcting the actions of  the contractor whose core mission it is to assist the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the state of Indiana in making the media aware of the project’s progress, challenges and successes. Jeremiah chose to act with conviction by clearing us, through proper channels, for a photo shoot at the top Louisville’s newest icon. This behemoth bridge project turned into a cover girl for the engineering world to admire and the region to celebrate.
Instead of being offered professional respect as seasoned journalists we were dismissed as grade schoolers by a contractor paid to be the project’s PIO. This person was duty bound to disseminate information that we sought. Her actions felt treasonous. We were seen by her as a liability – a part of the problem. Instead of being proactive and helping us showcase the public’s project delivery system as a possibility for the rest of the nation to deploy on their civic endeavors, she stymied us. Worst, she threatened to deny the scores of dedicated professional’s working on the bridge credit for the good work. Poor performances like this prevent other’s attempting to do the same from benefiting form shared information.
As a former spokesman on The Big Dig, I am certain the world would be a better place if there were more dedicated men and women like Jeremiah working on mega public projects. Making America aware of the need for better critical infrastructure is the key.


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Author: Dan McNichol Posted On: April 23rd, 2015 In: Uncategorized

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Save Our Superstructure: willful neglect has condemned a vital link to our past – a path to our future. Everyday the barely standing Old Northern Avenue Bridge begs Bostonians to value its history. Today that challenge is unmet.

Concerns of a catastrophic failure forced the Department of Public Works to close the bridge last year. Deemed by engineers as too dangerous for a pedestrian, the span once simultaneously supported trains, trolley’s and trucks along its deck. Today, the bridge carries only a message: Boston is lost.

Built in 1908, the Old Northern Avenue Bridge is the last swinging bridge in our city – one of few in the country. The structure is a piece of industrial art worthy of being a gateway to the self proclaimed Innovation District. When her center span sweeps over the historic Fort Point Channel people come to a standstill. In awe, crowds watch poetry in motion as hundreds of feet of steel trusses silently glide over the sea as they have for over a hundred years. The city is a better place with the Old Northern Avenue Bridge in its midst.

The Seaport District, aka the Innovation District, is adrift in a sea of suburban architecture from somewhere else. Where lighting attempts to coverup a lack of substance. The emerging community owes its worth to the waterfront it occupies, the subterranean superhighways below its surface streets and its proximity to the city’s center – not to the buildings being erected. Nearly 1,000 acres of promising land needs an anchor – a root to grow from.  The Fort Point Channel is that saving grace. The Northern Avenue Bridge is one of its most prominent layers in the city’s industrial yesteryears. Generations of Bostonians passed over the bridge as they toiled away at their legacy. Now is the time to recognize our ancestors work with a full restoration of their bridge. Save our bridge.

The Road – Gone

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Author: Dan McNichol Posted On: April 7th, 2015 In: Uncategorized

Deputy Fire Chief, Paul Davidovich:  a US Marine helicopter pilot, retires to the Rocky Mountain town of Lyons, Colorado and builds a log cabin for he and his wife Maureen. All is well until ten years later when a biblical flash flood rips through their remote village in the dark of a September evening in 2013. The town’s lifeline, US Route 36, is swept away by an angry North Saint Vrain Creek which turns into a torrent of whitewater. Washed away is the town and the chief”s fire truck along with one of its citizens.
The Federal Emergency Managment Agency (FEMA) officials arriving on the scene remark that they’ve seen the worst of America’s natural disasters. Never has a town’s infrastructure been gutted so deeply. Unprecedented: utilities buried deep below ground have disappeared – washed away.
Winding, climbing US Route 36 is the only way into and out of the canyon that Lyons occupies. The two lane highway brings hikers, kayakers, mountain bikers and gaggles of tourists to town. More importantly, emergency medical services, foods, and fuels needed for daily life pass along it daily. Suddenly an emergency zone, the National Guard deploys Blackhawk helicopters – the one way to reach Lyons.
Driving in the town’s newest fire truck earlier that night, Cheif Davidovich and his crew are responding a low level emergency – a car and driver in a ditch. Portending the coming disaster, rainfall is getting heavier by the minute. The crew spots the distressed driver who is found standing on the roof of his car. River waters threaten to sweep him away. The crew pulls him to safety and immediately begins a hasty descent along the mountain road back to the firehouse. Suddenly the river rises over the roadway in front of the truck. The town’s prize purchase is adrift.
Coming to rest against a giant Ponderosa tree that has fallen across the river, Cheif Davidovich calls for all to abandon the truck and head up a cliff into a cave for protection. The only way off the truck to land is by converting the truck’s long extension ladder into a bridge to the ridge.
In the morning the former Marine helicopter pilot begins a house to house search for others stranded. Mapping out households of those in need of first aid, the Cheif spots a Blackhawk helicopter form the Colorado National Guard. Signaling for the chopper to land Cheif Davidovich directs the pilot and crew to begin evacuation of those most in need. Three days later the Cheif and his men return to town to find little of what they knew to be.
Sewage flowing into homes, schools, and government buildings forces a complete evacuation of Lyons. Rugged folks by nature most of the town’s citizens’s refuse to leave. Police assisted by the National Guard force them out. Heavy equipment is called in and used to rescue stranded people in and around town. Emergency dikes are built along the still angry river. The US Army Corps of Engineers arrive to immediatly begin rebuilding US Route 36. Rescue and rebuilding takes place along the road. There is not a choice but to rebuild the highway – its a way to life in Lyons.

The Interstate System

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Author: Dan McNichol Posted On: April 2nd, 2015 In: Uncategorized


The Interstate System is a proper noun branding a 47,000 mile system of 62 superhighways interconnected by 55,000 bridges and 104 tunnels. Crisscrossing into every corner of America the network is marked by numbered red, white and blue shields labeling a mega internet of the most trafficked desire lines – trade routes – that feed people into places ultimately creating moments. Per calls the Interstate System “The Big Road”.

The Hudson Whisperer

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Author: Dan McNichol Posted On: December 16th, 2014 In: Uncategorized

Per Drinking AntiFreeze

Per is the Hudson Whisperer.

I was trucking though the mountains of Western Pennsylvania towards Massachusetts in a hastily rented U-haul rig. It was a crisp October morning in 2003. Yellow, orange and red leaves splashed the deep blue morning sky. I was high spirited regardless of unexpectedly having to tow my just purchased but broken Hudson.

Desperate I began dialing members of the Hudson Club for assistance from a thick roster I pulled from the old car’s glove box. Larry, the previous owner, told me where to find it. The bastard knew I’d need it.

“If you breakdown anywhere, these folks will help you out. They’re good people. They’ll swap out your water pump and put a plate of potatoes in front of you.” True of them I’ve discovered, but not of him.

Larry, playing the part of an affable farmer that was too old to keep driving his prized Hudson, assured me I could drive “no problem” from his farm in Ohio back to Boston. Taking my $7,000 cashier check he patted me on the back. Waiving goodbye to each other, I eased the Hudson down his long dirt driveway.

A few miles from his mailbox I had my first breakdown. Loosing locomotion I pulled onto the shoulder of the highway. An intense clicking came from the gas tank followed by coughing, wheezing and the engine’s failure. It felt like I’d run out of gas but I’d just topped off the tank at a Texaco Station near the onramp to Interstate 70.

In a bed of stiff hay on the side of the Big Road I laid in wait against a farmer’s fence. The fall morning sky was clear. The sun was hot. I’d passed along this stretch of the Interstate many times driving between Philadelphia and Springfield, Ohio where my alma mater Wittenberg University sits about fifty miles down the road. In my four years there I had heard much of the The National Road, America’s first interstate highway that launched pioneers plying their way West. Springfield was the last town for the famed road running parallel with this part of I-70. I was stuck in history – an old car on an old road.

I was clueless about cars – foolish for buying this one. All day, as the car stuttered, stalled and died every 20 miles I’d call old Larry from the shoulder of the road. All day be blew me off. Hitting the Allegheny Mountains it was clear that pushing on this way was dangerous. Jagged rock faces leaned into the breakdown lanes of the mountain passes of I-80. God looks out for fools and drunks. I found a U-Haul rig in a nearby town. The operator for the rental company said it was the last one large enough to tow a trailer big enough for my big ass lead sled I know owned.

“Per Christiansen, lives near me” I thought out loud. More importantly was a notation, an icon of a wrench next to his name indicating a wiliness to aid the mechanically challenged – me.” Dialing and driving a the truck, trailer and broken Hudson I listened to a strange salutation on a vintage answering machine. “Please leave a message” echoed in my ear. I began my S.O.S. “Hi. My name’s Dan McNichol. I live near you in Boston. I’m an author of books on roads. I’ve just finished writing a book on the Eisenhower Intestate System. I bought a 1951 Hudson to do a national book tour but it broke down in Ohio. I need to get the car ready for a drive across America in a few weeks. I’ll be in Boston by the end of the day. I was wondering if you…” “Hello? Hello? Hello?,” interrupted the now live version of the voice I had just heard on tape.

Per screens his calls. Hearing “Hudson” I later learned, opened the man’s garage door to me. “Per. Pronounced ‘pair’, like the fruit,” corrected the wise man’s voice.  He was stern. I was desperate. It was the beginning of an important relationship spanning many years.

Blowout: Road Tripping Through America’s Infrastructure

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Author: Dan McNichol Posted On: November 2nd, 2014 In: Uncategorized

NPR I-93 Sept 2010

The National Public Radio interview I was doing was interrupted by an explosion – then a violent shaking of the old car. I wrestled the cracked 1950s steering wheel. The 60-year old lead sled was shaking madly, weaving between the superhighway’s painted lines. The old girl was wanting to dump all 3,500 pounds of herself into a tree lined ravine running alongside the right side of the road. Good that I installed seat belts before the interview.

The veteran correspondent, still wearing her oversized headphones was pointing her microphone – a thing that looked like a dead rabbit at the end of a stick – at me out of habit. She went silent. I kept talking.

I was trying to calm her – us. She was pale. Her mouth hung open. She began pumping a break pedal she wished existed on the passenger side. She watched me struggle. Her face said, “We’re going to die.”

We were losing speed as the blown tire dragged us sideways. A truck I had overtaken a moment earlier was beside us again. A sedan in the passing lane pulled back into a blind spot. An over correction with a hard pull of the steering wheel was as dangerous as letting the old car go where it wanted – in the ditch. Stopping in the center of the 4 lane highway was the worst scenario. I continued struggling.

The antique yellowed review mirror was for powdering a nose – painting lips. Now I was using it in life and death decisions. Looking over both shoulders, jerking my head side to side, I decided to make a crash landing in the breakdown lane. Did the trucker hovering nearby know I was in distress? Regardless, he was blocking my escape route.

More out of habit than proper warning I threw the toggle on the turn signal indicator. Crossing the truck’s path I knew the Hudson’s antique 6-volt light bulb in my passenger side tail light, no better than crummy flashlight, was worthless in the late morning’s sunshine. I ordered my conscripted copilot to brace herself. I punched the gas.

The Hudson was shaking like a World War II, B-17 bomber taking flack. Beginning my approach for the emergency lane I had a sobering recollection: Breakdown lanes along this stretch of the overcrowded Route 128 are used for high speed travel during commuting rush hours. Unsuspecting out of state motorists with mechanical failures had been murdered along this road by mad men speeding between work and home.

We came to a halt at the end of a steel guardrail. As if the car was on fire I pushed as much as followed my crew out of the cockpit. We made it to the safe side of the highway barrier. Haunting me was the unanswered question: Was the stretch of road we were standing on a high speed travel lane or an after hours breakdown lane? I dialed AAA.

While waiting in tall grass for the wrecker, the host I was hosting continued her interview. She assured me that the crisis was going to make for good radio. Keeping her word the prime time piece aired with the blowout captured for listeners. All of it was a bad omen for tomorrow’s highway.




















The Roads That Built America


The Roads That Built America: The Incredible Story of the U.S. Interstate System: The behind the scenes tales of the engineering-construction of the largest project in the history of the United States: The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate & Defense Highways.



Paving the Way: Asphalt in America

51bTb2KMWDL._SS500_-e1361312362988Paving the Way: Asphalt in America: The definitive book on roads in America – where more than 90% are paved with asphalt. The journey begins in Rome, takes readers down Route 66, along the New Jersey Turnpike and ends the journey with the building of The Big Roads – the U.S. Interstate System.



The Big Dig

61HX7RX8R3L._SS500_-e1361312289759The Big Dig: The Largest Urban Construction Project in the History of the Modern World: When it was being built it was, “A messy complexity.” The most comprehensive book on the nation’s largest project civic project. Highly illustrated and simply put, this is McNichol’s first book which was a number one best seller.





The Big Dig at Night

9780760726891_p0_v1_s600-e1361312417213 The Big Dig at Night: The Big Dig’s most dangerous work was done at night. Remarkable images of America’s largest project during ghost shifts.











Thought Leadership Papers

Thought Leadership begins with a conversation. Seeking the brightest minds in infrastructure, McNichol turns complexity into story. Construction Goes Global was authored by McNichol in the Spring of 2014.  The United States: The World’s Largest Emerging P3 Market was authored by McNichol in 2013.



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There’s no question about your being the best speaker of the year! We all found you presentation to be riveting. You held our attention exceptionally well. Your strong voice without amplification worked out beautifully.

– Malcolm Knapp

VP General Electric

Feedback was great.  You hit a home run – you hit it out of the ball park!

– Gary W. McManis

Principal, Keppler Speakers

The feedback was fantastic. You were a hit!

– Kevin F. Smith

Senior Vice President CVS Pharmacy


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