NSW roads need critical help, engineers say

NSW Government urged to adopt new measures such as congestion charging and greater funding to improve the road network

By Brad Gardner | July 21, 2010

The NSW Government is being urged to adopt new measures to improve the road network following the release of a damning report into the condition of the State’s infrastructure.

The Engineers Australia group has released its report card on NSW infrastructure, giving the overall road network a grade of C- and saying it needs major change.

The network was only brought up to an average grade based on the B- given to national roads in NSW, with the state-run network and local roads each receiving a D+.

"The State’s infrastructure is under stress in many areas and needs major changes to above its generally average to poor condition," Engineers Australia Chair Ian Pedersen says.

He says there is a need for strategic planning, coordination and integration coupled with increased investment in infrastructure to bring it up to standard.

This includes a massive cash injection into local roads, with Engineers Australia highlighting a significant funding gap of $618 million a year.

"The gap is widening between what funds are required to maintain and improve local roads, and what is actually being spent," the report says.

"Funding is required to close the gap, with specific attention given to renewing and upgrading the more than 10,000 bridges on local roads, and facilitating the use of high productivity vehicles."

But the report says a cash splurge is not the sole answer to improving roads, adding that government must look at new road pricing mechanisms.

"This may include a road usage charge that combines congestion costs, road damage, environmental and other secondary damage impacts," it says.

Government should also encourage a shift away from road use, according to Engineers Australia, which wants a greater focus on public transport and rail freight services.

It also recommended changes to improve asset utilisation by linking existing networks, minimising the impact of road works, removing traffic blockages quickly and coordinating traffic signals.

Grades for other jurisdictions were released earlier this year, with Tasmania and South Australia receiving a C- for roads.

Victoria received a C+ for roads, with reports on Queensland and Western Australia to be released in September.

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