That's the approximate number of bridges that are either "deficient" or "obsolete," according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.
That's more than one in four.
Approximately 73,000 of them are "structurally deficient" - like the bridge in Minneapolis - while 80,000 others are "functionally obsolete." That means they're carrying more traffic than they were designed to carry.Not scary enough? Then try this quote on for size:
"I think we're going to see bridges collapse, and we do on a regular basis," said Kent Harries of the University of Pittsburgh's School of Engineering.
"We need to find ways to address it," Harries added. Gee, ya think?
Investigators are still sorting out the political decision-making behind the Minnesota disaster, but we already know this: Tragedies like this are the inevitable result of the conservative onslaught on government itself.
Government as a concept has under indiscriminate attack from the Right for more than a generation. They've been using the power of elected office to dismantle the apparatus of governance at every level -- local, state, and Federal -- in order to benefit their wealthy benefactors.
It's the Third-World-ization of the USA, and it's the reason why the same Society of Civil Engineers gave America's infrastructure a "D" last year.
D. That's a failing grade.
It's been said before, but let's say it again: If terrorists had bombed this bridge, or destroyed the levees and flooded New Orleans, life in America would change forever. But since it's only our own governmental neglect -- and conservative greed -- nobody seems to give a damn.
The Civil Engineers say it will cost $9.4 billion a year for 20 years to eliminate all bridge deficiencies. Wow, that's a lot of money. We can't afford that! Oh, wait ... the total amount over twenty years is less than we've spent in Iraq already, isn't it?
We've got other problems, too -- pipelines that could fail at any time, massive potential power failures, buildings that could fall. The Civil Engineers say it will take $1.6 trillion to fix all of America's infrastructural problems.
That's less than the Iraq war will eventually cost, isn't it?
Conservatives want "government so small you can drown it in a bathtub." Or the Mississippi River. Or the Ninth Ward.
Ronald Reagan's quips about taxes and bureaucracy don't seem so funny any more, do they?
The next time some conservative complains about "big government," ask them whose life they're willing to sacrifice to keep government small. Remember: The problem isn't one President, or even one party (although the Republicans are clearly the biggest part of the problem.)
As long as there is a political philosophy that hates government -- just for being government -- these disasters will continue.
And that's the real catastrophe.