A report tabled by the ACT Auditor-General shows that Canberra’s path network is rapidly aging, and in need of urgent attention.
The report states that 77 percent of community paths in Canberra are not subjected to regular inspections, and the ‘risk based approach’ taken by Roads ACT is insufficient to cover all locations that require maintenance.
Pedal Power ACT has voiced concern about the deteriorating path network for many years. This report confirms our fears that the neglect is ongoing and the Government currently has no long-term strategy to address the problem.
We need to maintain and preserve this essential infrastructure by investing significant funding now, rather than letting the path network deteriorate until it needs to be replaced at much greater cost to the taxpayer.
In 2016, Pedal Power ACT released a report on Addressing Path Maintenance in the ACT calling for a four-fold increase in the annual community path maintenance funding of $3.3 million (2016-2017), to around $12 million per year. This figure represents only two percent of the replacement cost of the paths, which are valuable community assets.
We also advised that due to a long period of insufficient maintenance expenditure, a large backlog of work urgently required Government funding of around $14 million over a three to four years period. The report stated:
“If this backlog of work is not undertaken, then the amount of ongoing maintenance will need to be greater than indicated to prevent the assets continuing to deteriorate to the point where they will require replacement – and at a greater cost to the community than if the required maintenance was undertaken.”
There is $4 million allocated “to continue building an integrated transport network through footpath and cycleway improvements” in the 2017-18 ACT budget. This does not come close to the amount required to address the backlog and the ongoing maintenance that Canberra’s paths sorely need.
The good condition of shared paths in the ACT is an essential part of the Government’s own Active Travel policy.
Well maintained community paths provide economic, social and environmental benefits to the ACT community. More people partaking in incidental exercise while commuting and enjoying leisure time will take pressure off the health system and traffic congestion, and reduce the pollution that affects our environment.
Pedal Power ACT recommends that a more extensive and better-connected bike path system is required to encourage more people to use active transport around Canberra. Yet there appears to be little commitment to maintaining the paths we have, let alone building new infrastructure to promote a healthy population.
Transport Canberra and City Services said that they welcome the performance audit and look forward to implementing its recommendations.
Pedal Power ACT particularly looks forward to Recommendations 12-15 being addressed as soon as possible.
RECOMMENDATION 12 MAINTAINING COMMUNITY PATHS
Roads ACT should develop and implement a: a) renewal program for the timely repair of defects across the Territory; and b) planned program of inspections of the condition and safety of community paths that are not in high priority locations. The frequency of inspections should be sufficient to reliably determine whether maintenance of paths is needed.
RECOMMENDATION 13 HIGH PRIORITY OF LOCATIONS OF COMMUNITY PATHS
Roads ACT should review the list of high priority locations of community paths, and their priority rating, on a biennial basis and update the Asset Management Operational Plan for Community Paths and Strategic Asset Management Plan’ for the results of these reviews.
RECOMMENDATION 14 QUALITY CONTROL
Roads ACT should implement a system of verifying that concrete used by contractors to maintain community paths comply with ACT Government design standards.
RECOMMENDATION 15 COST OF MAINTAINING AND UPGRADING COMMUNITY PATHS
Assessments of the future costs of maintaining and upgrading community paths and the related funding requirements should be updated and included the Transport Canberra and City Services Strategic Asset Management Plan.