Taxpayer funds would be better spent on fixing local roads then on building large new infrastructure projects in major cities, according to a new report from the Grattan Institute.
The report says that local roads are in a state of “dangerous disrepair,” particularly in regional areas, “and they are only going to get worse without an extra $1 billion in funding each year.”
“Many councils do not have a realistic way of raising the money they need to keep their roads in good condition, especially rural and remote councils,” the “Pothole and Pitfalls” report says.
“This funding would provide an extra 25% on top of what councils are currently spending on road maintenance.
“A billion dollars is only about 10% of what the federal government spent on roads last year.”
The solution is not only more funding, however. The report points out that funding needs to be better targeted, with cleaner lines of responsibility from the fund source to the “end point of better, safer roads.”
It also makes a point about regional inequity, recommending that the federal government should stop favouring densely populated states with its funding arrangements and cut back on the share of the funding pool which goes to already self-sufficient councils in major cities.
The Grattan Institute surveyed local government authorities for the report and found that a quarter of them “don’t’ even know exactly what roads and bridges they manage.” For remote councils, the figure was nearly 50%.
The report recommends that the federal government establish a national road hierarchy, establish minimum services standards and basic data specifications for councils to follow.
The federal government should also help under resourced councils manage their road networks.
“Targeting road funding to where it’s needed most would put the road network back on track, and allow councils to give communities the roads they need,” the report says.
The Grattan Institute released the report as the government’s review of infrastructure saw 50 projects cancelled due to budget blowouts.
The review found that the cost of Australia’s $120 billion, ten year, infrastructure program had blown out by $32.8 billion, half of which was in projects not yet under construction.
Projects to be cancelled include upgrades to the Great Western Highway between Katoomba and Lithgow in the NSW Blue Mountains, the Goulburn Valley Highway to Shepparton stage one bypass, and future road and rail connections in Perth.