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NYS Comptroller


Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Department of Transportation
Railroad Bridge Inspection Program

Issued: December 09, 2013
Link to full audit report 2013-S-5
Link to 90-day response

To determine whether the Department of Transportation (Department) properly oversees railroads operating in the State to ensure they meet the bridge inspection requirements. This audit covers the period January 1, 2010 through June 30, 2013.

The Railroad Bridge Inspection Program (Program) provides oversight of the inspection of railroad bridges in an effort to ensure public safety and decrease the risk of railroad bridge failures. Department regulations require railroad bridge inspections to be conducted in accordance with formal bridge management plans and inspection procedures. They also require each railroad to submit an annual certification that its bridges are safe for the load imposed, and to provide the Department with an up to date inventory of its bridges. Department data shows that 38 railroads own or have maintenance responsibility for almost 3,000 railroad bridges in the State.

Key Findings

  • The Department does not sufficiently monitor whether the railroads comply with its bridge inspection and reporting requirements. For example, the bridge management plans on hand are an average age of 10 years old and some may no longer be relevant. Also, the Department has incomplete information on the inventory of railroad bridges and their inspections.
  • The Department also does not actively monitor the submission of inspection certifications. As a result, four of 114 certifications due during our audit period were not submitted, 43 were late and many were also incomplete.
  • The Department did not monitor whether inspections were done on the 48 bridges it is responsible for. As a result, eight required inspections were not done between 2010 and 2012.
  • The Department has not communicated with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which has a similar bridge management program, to determine how these agencies can share information and otherwise reduce potential duplication of effort.

Key Recommendations

  • Take steps to bring the Program into compliance by updating the bridge management plan information, bridge inventory, and bridge inspection data for each railroad.
  • Periodically monitor the submission and accuracy of the railroad inspection certifications.
  • Ensure each bridge for which the Department is responsible is inspected annually.
  • Coordinate with the FRA to identify redundancies in Program activities or information. Evaluate opportunities to leverage the work of all parties to streamline operations through information sharing and coordinated monitoring.

Other Related Audits/Reports of Interest

Department of Transportation: Status of Railroad Bridge Inspection Program (99-S-12)

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: John Buyce
Phone: (518) 473-4271; Email:
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236