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NYS Comptroller


Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Inspecting Highway Bridges and Repairing Defects

Issued: November 08, 2013
Link to full audit report 2012-S-32
Link to 90-day response

To determine if the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and the MTA Bridges and Tunnels (B&T) inspected highway bridges and addressed related deficiencies in a timely manner as required by State and federal laws. Our audit covered inspections performed of LIRR bridges during the period January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2011, and B&T bridges during the period January 1, 2008 to December 18, 2012.

MTA's LIRR and B&T generally must inspect 12 bridges and 1 tunnel that they operate once every 24 months. The deficiencies that are identified during inspections are classified as "Red Flag," "Yellow Flag," and "Safety Flag." A Red Flag designation pertains to the failure or potentially imminent failure of critical primary structural components. Red Flag conditions pose a clear and present or future danger and must be reported to the New York State Department of Transportation (Department) within one week and must be addressed with appropriate action within six weeks. A Yellow Flag designation pertains to a potentially hazardous condition which, if left unattended beyond the next inspection would become a clear and present danger. A Safety Flag designation pertains to a clear and present danger to vehicle or pedestrian traffic, but with no danger of structural failure. Between January 2008 and July 2012, 1,469 flags were issued for the LIRR and B&T highway bridges. As of July 2012, 538 flags remained active, 523 were resolved and 408 superseded flags issued prior to January 2008. We sampled 116 flags including 30 Red, 22 Yellow, and 64 Safety.

Key Findings

  • Generally, LIRR and B&T perform bridge inspections and related repairs to correct flag deficiencies in a timely manner as required by State and federal regulations. However, there were a limited number of exceptions suggesting a need for further improvement.
  • From our sample of 116 flags, we noted that nine B&T Safety Flags and two Department Safety Flags on LIRR bridges remained unresolved for extended periods of time ranging from 12 to 45 months after being identified.
  • For three B&T Red Flags, the required re-inspections were performed from two to eleven days late.
  • Five LIRR bridges were being inspected by both the Department and the LIRR.

Key Recommendations

  • Ensure that LIRR and B&T have time frames for resolving Safety Flags.
  • Ensure that B&T re-inspections are immediately performed for Red Flags that remain open for more than six weeks.
  • The LIRR should coordinate with the Department to determine if inspections could be done by one or the other of them that would meet the requirements of both entities.

Other Related Audits/Reports of Interest

New York State Thruway Authority: Inspecting Highway Bridges and Repairing Defects (2012-S-33)

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