Transit workers have failed to inspect critical but hard-to-reach structures in the subway system in violation of the MTA's own rules, a report from the agency's Inspector General found.
Ten elevated structures have not been inspected since 1997, five of which may never have been inspected at all, according to the audit released Thursday. The report also pointed out that these structures — all more than 35 feet above street level — are supposed to be checked every five years, according to rules established by an MTA task force.
"Certainly the absence of timely inspection increases the risk of serious structural failure," the report said.
The MTA indicated that these inspections are scheduled to begin in July, though auditors noted that the agency did not appear to on track to meet that deadline.
The report also flagged a section of the A line that crosses Jamaica Bay as an area in need of attention. Auditors were unable to find any unit within NYC Transit responsible for inspecting the portion of the Rockaway Viaduct that carries trains over "the corrosive salt water of Jamaica Bay."
"Clearly, the over-water portion of the viaduct must be inspected at least as often as the portion over land," the report said.
There was also no evidence of an inspection for the underwater sections of the viaduct and two bridges in Jamaica Bay.
Inspectors also are behind schedule on critical inspections they had been advised to begin. According to the report, auditors had previously discovered that the city did not keep a comprehensive list of abandoned subway stations — even those located underneath stations that are currently in use. NYC Transit has since developed a list of 38 abandoned facilities "that still serve a structural purpose" but has not yet finalized a schedule for inspections.
The MTA is also behind schedule on other inspections that the agency was supposed to prioritize after part of the ceiling at the 181st Street station on the A line collapsed in 2009. Following the collapse, NYC Transit did create a task force that compiled a list of ceilings similar to the one at that station.
Inspections were supposed to begin in 2010, but the project has been pushed back and has not yet begun. The MTA indicated that it expects to begin this process in July.
The Straphangers Campaign, a subway riders' advocacy group, said in a statement that it was "alarmed" at the disarray of structural inspections and pointed out that parts of the subway system are more than 100 years old.