A further $40 million has been announced for upgrades to bridges on regional roads, bringing the total spend under the Bridges Renewal Program to almost $900 million.
An additional $10 million in government funding will be provided each year for the next four years, increasing annual funding to $95 million.
Projects eligible for funding include replacing and widening bridges, strengthening existing structures, and upgrading floodways to bridges.
“Building new bridges and upgrading existing structures will strengthen our freight network and ensure valuable commodities continue flowing to international and domestic buyers,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Barnaby Joyce.
Over 85 per cent of projects funded under the Bridges Renewal Program (BRP) are in regional Australia. Joyce says the extra funding will further improve regional roads and keep regional communities connected.
“To make our country as strong as possible as quickly as possible we must support the growth of the industries that drive our economy,” Joyce said.
“Many of these industries are in regional Australia, including the mining and agricultural exporting businesses that help pay for the services all Australians rely on.
“Our additional funding commitment will strengthen regional businesses and our economy, create local jobs, and improve safety for freight drivers and regional communities.
Assistant Minister for Road Safety and Freight Transport Scott Buchholz explained, “Since the Bridges Renewal Program commenced in 2015-16 it has supported 730 projects, of which 495 projects have been completed.”
“Last year the Government updated the program to accept applications on a rolling basis.
“Accepting applications on an ongoing basis means state, territory and local governments can plan and submit their best-quality projects as and when they are needed.”
The announcement has been warmly received by various regional councils and ministers.
Nationals candidate for Hunter James Thomson says the BRP has already had a significant impact locally, including the replacement of the Frame Drive Bridge at Abermain, the Brookers Bridge Replacement and Realignment Project on Mirannie Road and the Barnsley Weir Bridge Replacement at Barnsley.
“Upgrading bridges will create a safer and stronger road and freight network across the Hunter, ensuring businesses can continue to move their goods to where they need to be,” he said.
Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia (HVIA) has also welcomed the additional investment, labelling it “a boost for the freight industry”.
HVIA government relations and policy manager Greg Forbes says the funding is crucial to enabling the most efficient use of Australia’s freight network.
“We welcome the additional funding but call on state and local government road managers to prioritise the weak links in the network,” Forbes said.
Though he added, “We are asking the Federal Government to tweak the criteria to better support the expansion of national networks for high productivity vehicles.
“It is not just the highways but the routes in and out of regional centres that need to be included, to guarantee access for our safest and most efficient combinations.”