Comptroller: Gaps In Oversight Program Are Troubling

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — An audit targeting the safety of New York state’s railroad bridges has turned up some startling information.

According to an audit due for release Tuesday by the comptroller’s office, the state Department of Transportation lacks the records to show updated and adequate safety plans and inspections for railroad bridges statewide.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli told the Associated Press that some safety records required by state law were late and others didn’t exist.

“The gaps in the railroad bridge oversight program uncovered by my auditors are troubling,” DiNapoli said. “DOT needs to do a better job making sure it’s on the same page with the railroads and the federal government so the public can be assured it is not in danger.”

DOT officials, however, have re-assured the public that all railroad bridges are safe under new, stringent regulations.

A transportation official said it is the responsibility of the railroads to inspect their own 3,000 bridges statewide and that all 48 of the state-owned railroad bridges will be inspected by the end of the year as required annually.

The DOT also said it is developing a new system involving the bridge inspection database.  The agency said the new system will allow the state to be more effective in ensuring the safety of bridges.

“Safety is our top priority, and we have a very aggressive inspection program that exceeds federal standards,” department spokesman Beau Duffy said in an interview Monday.

DiNapoli’s auditors said bridge management plans, which describe inspection procedures and policies, are on average 10 years old.  One plan was 25 years old, and eight weren’t dated.

The audit was conducted between Jan. 1, 2010, and June 30, 2013.  As a result, four of 114 state certifications due at the time of the audit in June weren’t submitted, 43 were late and many were incomplete.

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