Australia

Study of community roads and infrastructure highlights room for improvement: ALGA

RESULTS from a national study commissioned by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) to examine the condition of community roads and infrastructure reinforce that more than 10 per cent of sealed roads are in poor condition and a large proportion of timber bridges are substandard.

The 2013 National State of the Assets Report was launched last week at ALGA's 14th National Local Roads and Transport Congress in Alice Springs, where hundreds of local government representatives met to discuss key issues affecting roads, transport and infrastructure provision in Australian communities.

The 2013 Report represents the findings from analysis of data provided by 344 councils, which manage almost $100 billion worth of transport assets, including sealed local roads, unsealed local roads, concrete bridges and timber bridges. Key findings reveal that $8.3 billion in sealed roads are in poor or very poor condition, together with a further $1.9 billion in unsealed roads and $1.4 billion in concrete and timber bridges.

ALGA President, Felicity-ann Lewis said findings of the report reinforce the need for further investment in local roads and bridges, which she said are critical to the social and economic development of communities and national prosperity.

"We can't afford to have substandard local roads and bridges.  These are the gateways to and from our communities.  They provide access to local, regional, state and national services and markets and play a vital role in driving our economy," Cr Lewis said.

"Local roads and bridges make up the first and last mile of every journey.  We depend on them to move freight efficiently.  But local access points are not of the standard that they should be," she said, adding that this is confirmed by the State of the Assets Report.

The Report builds on research commissioned in 2010 which indicated that the level of expenditure on local roads would need to increase by an average of $1.2 billion per year to avoid deterioration of the local road network.  In 2006, the results of a study undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that the potential aggregate backlog for all 560 Australian local councils was approximately $14.6 billion, with an annual funding gap of $1.1 billion.

Cr Lewis said that while councils appreciate assistance provided through the Federal Government's Roads to Recovery program, more needs to be done to address the estimated funding shortfall for local roads of $1.2 billion annually.

"Local government manages more than 80 per cent of our national road network and we need to ensure that we can afford to maintain local roads to a sufficient standard, otherwise local and national productivity will suffer," she said.

"The Coalition Government has committed to a Bridges Renewal program to fix some of the problems councils are experiencing with aged infrastructure, such as timber bridges, and we wholeheartedly welcome that initiative."

More information is available from the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) website at <http://www.alga.asn.au/>.

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