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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Inspecting Highway Bridges and Repairing Defects


Issued: May 19, 2014
Link to full audit report 2012-S-34

Purpose
To determine if the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Authority) inspected highway bridges and addressed related deficiencies in a timely manner as required by State and federal laws. Our audit covered inspections performed of bridges during the period of January 1, 2008 through June 21, 2013.

Background
The Authority is responsible for inspecting its highway bridges and repairing any defects found. If a serious ("Red Flag") structural defect is identified during an inspection, the Authority must notify the New York State Department of Transportation (Department) within one week. The Authority has six weeks to take appropriate action (i.e., close the bridge, repair the defect, or take alternative action to ensure the bridge is safe to use. Less serious safety defects may also be identified during inspections, and are classified as either "Yellow" or "Safety" Flag conditions. A Yellow Flag condition is defined as a potentially hazardous condition which, if left unattended beyond the next anticipated inspection, would likely become a clear and present danger. A Safety Flag is defined as a condition presenting a clear and present danger to vehicle or pedestrian traffic, but there is no danger of structural failure or collapse. If Red or Safety Flags are so serious that immediate attention is needed, they are identified as "Prompt Interim Action" (PIA). When a PIA condition is found, the Authority must take appropriate interim protective and/or corrective action within 24 hours. Any repairs of flagged conditions must be certified by a licensed professional engineer. Between January 2008 and December 2012, 1,137 flags were issued on these highway bridges.

The Authority does not use the term "flag" for the defects identified during an inspection. Instead it labeled them as Immediate Conditions (Red Flag), Priority Conditions (Yellow Flag), and Safety Conditions (Safety Flags). For this report, we refer to the inspection results as "conditions."

Key Findings

  • The Authority conducted the required biennial inspection of its highway bridges.
  • The Authority does not follow the New York State requirements for classifying, reporting and repairing bridge defects. Instead it follows its own method, but does not always satisfy Department requirements. As a result, it did not perform 47 interim inspections for Priority Conditions open more than one year. The Authority did not inspect a highway bridge with an Immediate Condition for 332 days while it awaited repairs.
  • Ten of the 17 Safety Conditions sampled were not repaired for more than two years, including three which were open for five years.

Key Recommendations

  • Inspect highway bridges with Immediate Conditions while they await repairs to ensure that the condition does not deteriorate.
  • Ensure that interim inspections are done for any priority condition open for more than one year.
  • Follow Department bridge inspection and timeliness of repairs requirements and obtain the Department's formal approval for each modification of the requirements.

Other Related Audits/Reports of Interest

Department of Transportation: Management and Oversight of Structural Defects on Highway Bridges (2012-F-18)
Thruway Authority: Inspecting Highway Bridges and Repairing Defects (2012-S-33)
Metropolitan Transportation Authority: Inspecting Highway Bridges and Repairing Defects (2012-S-32)


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Carmen Maldonado
Phone: (212) 417-5200; Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236