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Audit: Port Authority Missed Inspections

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey failed to perform dozens of inspections on bridges that had already been determined to be potentially hazardous, a state audit finds, though the authority said the findings amount to a disagreement about inspection standards.

I-495 Bridge Closed Indefinitely Over Christina  River in WIlmington
William Thomas Cain, Getty Images

The review released Friday by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found that the authority waited more than a year to conduct 47 inspections on bridges identified in earlier examinations as having conditions that could become dangerous if ignored. Most of the problems were on the George Washington Bridge.

The dispute between the audit team and the authority — which manages airports, tunnels and highway bridges in New York and New Jersey — amounts to a difference of interpretation of inspection standards.

“The authority does not follow the New York state requirements for classifying, reporting and repairing bridge defects,” the audit team wrote. “Instead it follows its own method, but does not always satisfy (New York Department of Transportation) requirements.”

In a statement, DiNapoli said the audit shows the authority “needs to do a better job of re-inspecting and repairing our bridges.”

The authority disputed the findings, insisting that the inspections and repairs were done in a timely manner and well within required timelines. In a written response, authority chief engineer Peter Zipf said auditors applied inspection standards from the New York State Department of Transportation, when the authority uses a different standard.

Zipf said his agency maintains a “robust” inspection and repair program that spends billions of dollars on bridge upkeep and repair.

“The program is in full technical compliance with all inspection requirements,” Zipf wrote in his response. He said his agency uses its own system of inspection standards and that the audit team incorrectly assumed they were equivalent to state standards.

The audit team dismissed that explanation, writing in the report that the Authority is required to base its standards on the state’s.

New York state law requires the Port Authority to conduct regular bridge inspections using state standards, or standards modeled on the state’s system.

The authority did agree to improve how it documents inspections and reports them to the state.

The authority maintains 116 bridge sections, ramps and walkways at two airports in New York, one tunnel and on four highway bridges. The audit analyzed inspections between 2008 and June 2013.

 

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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