OIG to audit FHWA's oversight of bridges

| Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Beginning this week, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General plans to conduct an audit of the Federal Highway Administration’s oversight of structurally deficient bridges on the national highway system.

The audit’s objective is to evaluate whether structurally deficient bridges have been inspected in accordance with National Bridge Inspection Standards. Another objective: to determine whether FHWA’s oversight is effective to address the deficiencies on these bridges.

“Specifically, we will evaluate whether FHWA provides adequate oversight to ensure state inspections are performed and recorded properly, and to monitor state plans and programs to address the structural deficiencies on these bridges,” the OIG said.

Meanwhile, a September report prepared for the FHWA and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials concluded the nation’s highway system has vulnerabilities critical enough “to be a matter of national security.”

A panel of engineers and experts from across the country prepared the report and contributed their time with no compensation.

“(The panel) believes that loss of a critical bridge or tunnel could exceed $10 billion,” the report said. “Moreover, the regional economic consequences of a major coordinated terrorist attack on multiple facilities are almost inestimable.”

The report said 1,000 among the nation’s 600,000 bridges, if attacked, would result in substantial casualties, economic disruption and other societal ramifications

In a related development, Iyman Faris was sentenced last month to 20 years in prison for providing material support and resources to al Qaeda and conspiracy for providing the terrorist organization with information about possible U.S. targets for attack — including the Brooklyn Bridge.