Feds splash more cash on unsealed freight routes

A new Commonwealth Remote Roads Upgrade Pilot Program will offer councils 80 to 100 per cent of required funding to make unsealed local roads safer and more productive.

Over 75 per cent of Australia’s road network by length – about 678,000km in total – is owned and managed by local governments, with 61 per cent of these roads unsealed.

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) president Linda Scott commended the program’s focus on delivering safer roads, saying all councils were committed to minimising road trauma.

“Councils are working hard to keep our communities safe on our roads, as one death is simply one too many,” Cr Scott said.

“We welcome this funding as a positive first step to ensuring our roads are safer, in line with the soon-to-be-announced National Road Safety Strategy 2021-30.”

Cr Scott said ALGA’s 2021 National State of the Assets Report – to be launched next month – indicates that 14 per cent of our unsealed roads are in poor condition.

“The state of local roads across Australia is a major concern, given that the road toll in regional and remote communities is up to 10 times greater than in our major cities,” she said.

“All councils are committed to doing everything we can to ensure our roads keep our communities safe, but this can be a challenging task in remote areas where more financial support from the Commonwealth is needed.”

She said eligible councils would welcome this new opportunity to improve safety, equity, and productivity for their communities – benefits that will also be felt at the national level.

“To ensure no community is left behind, it’s vital that these grants are allocated where they are needed most, with applications assessed against transparent criteria.”

“Local government has a proven track record of working with the Federal Government on road safety programs such as Roads to Recovery and the Black Spot Program, and we look forward to working with them on this new pilot program,” Cr Scott said.

Guidelines for the $150m pilot program – which will target unsealed roads longer than 20km – will be released by the end of the year.

Acting Prime Minister and Transport Minister Barnaby Joyce said the trial program would target unsealed roads throughout remote Australia, many of which had not been upgraded since the Great Depression.

“This is not about sealing roads; it is about making them safer. It is about putting down gravel to stop parents getting bogged in the rain when they drive their kids to school; it is about removing dangerous corners,” Joyce said.

“We recognise the costs of upgrading rural and regional roads are often prohibitive for local governments.”

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