Roadworks should be at the top of the list for governments as they roll out post COVID-19 stimulus packages, says Infrastructure Australia’s infrastructure prioritisation chief.
“A roadworks program is not only quick to market but can also generate high involvement of labour, trade and skills and still deliver significant benefits, such as improved safety and reduced transport costs for [our] growing freight industry and for individual road users,” says Robin Jackson, who leads development of IA’s Infrastructure Priority List.
“In the context of COVID-19, the Australian Government’s recent announcement to bring forward $1.5 billion on local infrastructure projects, with $500 million of that targeted for road safety, is well placed and aligns with existing priorities on the Infrastructure Priority List.”
In September, IA announced two additions to the Infrastructure Priority List, both of which are road-based: the construction of Parkes Bypass on the NSW Newell Highway and the upgrade of Canberra’s Commonwealth Avenue Bridge.
The Newell Highway bypass will reduce congestion and improve safety in the town of Parkes while opening up the route to high-productivity freight vehicles.
The highway, which connects Melbourne and Brisbane, plays a critical role servicing consumer freight and carrying a significant volume of agricultural commodities from farms and other producers.
In Canberra, the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge proposal includes structural upgrades so the bridge can meet modern safety requirements and accommodate the increasing number of vehicles travelling over it.
Opened in 1963, the bridge reached design capacity more than three years ago and is already one of the busiest transport assets in Canberra, carrying an average of 7,320 vehicles during the morning peak hour. Upgrading the bridge will extend the design life by an estimated 50 years.
IA’s current Infrastructure Priority List includes just seven projects that are deemed ‘high priority’. Of these, four are road-based: the M12 Motorway and the M4 Motorway upgrade in NSW, and the M80 Ring Road upgrade and North East Link in Victoria.
“These are investment-ready infrastructure solutions that are supported by evidence and each of them is either under delivery and/or has received funding commitments from the Australian Government,” says Jackson.
He is urging governments at all levels to prioritise roadworks of all shapes and sizes in the months ahead. “As important as these major projects are on the road to recovery, we must not forget the value of smaller projects,” he notes.