“The recent bushfire crisis has underscored the critical importance of having a well-maintained regional road network,” RA President Michael Bushby said this morning.
“It’s not just a question of vehicle and road-user safety, but ongoing access. For many bushfire-affected communities, there’s just one or two roads in or out. Maintaining those roads for maximum accessibility in emergency situations can, quite literally, be a matter of life and death.”
Mr Bushby said the biggest impact of bushfires on the road network is not so much damage to the pavement but the roadside infrastructure and flora – signage, safety barriers and trees that pose a danger of falling on the roadway. On many local roads, vulnerable timber bridges can also be threatened – restricting access for firefighting and subsequent clean-up and ongoing community access.
“You will never make the road network completely fireproof. But with the increasing severity of bushfire events, we must be more proactive in managing our rural road corridors so we can minimise damage and enable them to be reopened more quickly,” Mr Bushby said.
“The impact of flooding is, in many ways, even more problematic. In the likelihood that we will see more frequent and severe flood events, we need to step up our investment in flood-proofing of ‘at risk’ corridors by rebuilding and elevating or even realigning existing roadways.”
More broadly, Mr Bushby said all state and territory governments needed to spend more on road maintenance, particularly in regional areas.
“Less than a third of Australians live in regional and remote areas, but nearly two thirds of all fatal road crashes occur on rural and remote roads,” he said.
“One of the biggest causes of fatalities and serious injuries on rural roads is single-vehicle lane departure – either running off the road or into on-coming traffic.
“It’s been shown that treatments such as sealing of road shoulders and installing audible edge lines can substantially reduce these types of crashes.
“Recurrent maintenance and renewal is often the ‘poor cousin’ of transport spending. The longer we defer essential maintenance and renewal spending, the more it will cost us in the long-run – both in dollars and lives.”