Don’t forget bridges in $2.8 billion road repair spend

The VTA commended the Victorian Government on its commitment to road maintenance and renewal, as well as flood recovery works, out- lined in the recent Victorian budget.

We’re urging it to prioritise the strengthening and upgrading of bridges on the state’s freight network as part of its $2.8 billion investment in road transport infrastructure because bolstering key freight-intense bridges, Victoria can enhance its transport infrastructure and ensure sustained economic growth.

Our regional freight routes play a vital role in connecting rural areas to metropolitan centres, facilitating the transportation of goods that fuel our economy.

These routes are the lifelines of agriculture, manufacturing, and other industries, enabling them to efficiently access domestic and international markets. Strengthening the infrastructure along these routes, particularly bridges, is essential to uphold the integrity of our supply chains.

Treasurer Tim Pallas’s ninth budget was delivered in the face of challenging economic circumstances that threaten growth and prosperity. Recognising the need to repay debt and safeguard the economy, the government has implemented savings and revenue measures.

While these initiatives will aid economic recovery, it is vital that infrastructure investment continues, especially in transport, which is vital for driving commerce and supporting regional development.

We were pleased to note the government’s continued commitment to productivity-boosting programs in the transport industry.

The allocation of $694 million for the upgrading of key roads and intersections, $62 million for local road upgrades, and $32 million for West Gate Bridge maintenance are commendable initiatives. These investments will enhance effecinecy, reduce congestion, and facilitate smoother movement of goods throughout the state.

However, to truly optimise Victoria’s freight network, attention must be directed towards strengthening bridges on freight routes. These bridges serve as crucial links, enabling the smooth and safe passage of heavy vehicles and ensuring uninterrupted freight movement.

Neglecting the condition of these structures could lead to disruptions, detours, and increased costs for the freight industry, hindering economic progress.

The VTA strongly urges the allocation of a portion of the $2.8 billion investment for bridge strengthening and upgrades. By doing so, the government will not only address immediate infrastructure needs but also create foundations for sustained economic growth.

Stronger bridges will increase load capacities, reduce maintenance costs, enhance safety, and improve overall freight network connectivity.

Over the years, many bridges on regional freight routes have deteriorated from aging and exposure to demands that go beyond their original design capacities.

This poses significant safety risks for all road users and can lead to disruptions in freight movements. By investing in bridge strengthening, these safety concerns can be addressed, mitigating the risk of accidents and minimising the potential for damage capital equipment and trauma to drivers.

While certain infrastructure programs are under re- view by the Commonwealth, it is gratifying to see the government’s commitment to vital projects such as the North East Link.

The VTA has long advocated for this project, and we were pleased to see a further allocation of $7.3 billion to ensure its completion, along with other Big Build projects. The government’s support for significant transport projects is a testament to its recognition of the industry’s contribution to Victoria’s economic prosperity.

Transport operators and the people they employ have shown remarkable resilience in the face of unprecedented challenges. Throughout the pandemic, operators have maintained exceptional service levels, ensuring the timely delivery of goods to customers and consumers.

The VTA acknowledges and commends the operators for their unwavering commitment to upholding high standards, even in the most trying circumstances.

As Victoria looks towards economic recovery, it is essential that investments in transport infrastructure align with the needs of the freight industry. Strengthening and upgrading bridges on freight routes must be a priority within allocations for road maintenance and renewal.

By fortifying these vital links, Victoria will foster efficient freight movement, support regional development, and lay the foundation for sustained economic growth.

The task of strengthening bridges on regional freight routes cannot be achieved by government alone. It requires collaboration between elected officials, industry stakeholders, and the local community.

The VTA, along with its members, is committed to working hand in hand with all stakeholders to develop comprehensive strategies, share knowledge, and contribute to the successful completion of vital transport infrastructure.

  • Peter Anderson is CEO, Victorian Transport Association

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