Department of Transportation

Management and Oversight of Structural Defects on Highway Bridges

The Department of Transportation is responsible for monitoring the condition of highway bridges in New York State. If a serious structural defect is identified during a bridge inspection, the bridge owner (usually a municipality or State agency) must be notified within seven work days. The owner then has six weeks in which to take appropriate action (i.e., close the bridge, repair the defect, or take alternative action to ensure that the bridge is safe to use). We reviewed the records relating to a sample of 204 such defects to determine whether the defects were addressed within the required time frame of about seven weeks. We found that 69 of the 204 defects (34 percent) were not addressed within the required time frame. In fact, it took, on average, more the 17 weeks to address these 69 serious structural defects.

According to Department officials, such delays are often caused by a lack funding for bridge repairs, an inability to develop appropriate repair plans quickly, disagreement over the need for the repairs, and disagreement over who is responsible for making the repairs. We also determined that the Departmentís regional offices are sometimes to slow to notify bridge owners about defects, and do not always follow up with bridge owners when their six-week deadline is approaching. We recommended that the Department develop an action plan to address the causes for delays in addressing serious structural defects on highway bridges. We also found that additional actions are needed to ensure that engineering certifications on bridge projects are provided by individuals with current New York State engineering licenses.

For a complete copy of Report 2008-S-102 click here.