14 September 2022

Car-worthy roads? The ACT Government is paying out more than ever in pothole damage claims

| James Coleman
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Potholes can be reported via the ACT Government’s Fix My Street portal. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Mallie Taylor had merged onto the Tuggeranong Parkway near the National Arboretum last week when suddenly, it was right there, in front of her car.

“There was no way I could have avoided it,” she says. “It was so big, it stretched outside the lane onto the side of the road too.”

There was a loud thud and “some choice words” as one of her hubcaps frisbee-d into the air behind her and rolled down the side of the road. Mallie had hit a pothole. She was left with a flat tyre, dented rim, broken wheel control arm, a $337 repair bill, and no way to get to work.

She’s not the only one.

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“My friend went back about an hour later and there were about 10 cars parked along the same stretch of road, changing tyres,” she says.

“I pay around $1100 a year for registration. How much of that really goes towards paying for the roads to be car-worthy? It’s not just about the money, either. It’s the stress as well. I’m a widow with one car and a job that public transport can’t get me to. What am I supposed to do?”

Mallie plans to file a damage claim with the ACT Government.

She’s not the only one.

What you can see of the pothole damage to Mallie Taylor’s car. Photo: Mallie Taylor.

The ACT Government saw a spike in the number of reported potholes in August. Since the beginning of the year to the end of July, a total of 635 potholes were reported. Last month alone, 339 potholes were reported.

A spokesperson for the ACT Government said the increase can be attributed to three years of wetter-than-average weather.

“This year will be our third La Niña weather pattern in a row, with road damage occurring across the entire of south-east Australia.”

But it’s beginning to cost them.

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The ACT Government has paid out 50 pothole damage claims so far in 2022, up from 40 last year and 16 in 2020. This amounts to $43,148.96, with the average claim worth about $860. Claims in 2021 totalled $39,024.

Transport Canberra and City Services’ (TCCS) executive branch manager of city operations Ken Marshall told an estimates hearing in August there were certain circumstances under which motorists could make a claim to cover damage caused by potholes on public roads.

“There are processes by which TCCS will consider those claims and, in some circumstances, some compensation will be paid,” he said. “But those are subject to the specific details of each specific case.”

Roads ACT manages the 5900 kilometres and 20 million square metres of road in the ACT. They say pavement has a life expectancy of 10 to 20 years.

“As the road surface wears and ages, small cracks develop in the pavement which permits water to enter the underlying surface of the pavement,” the ACT City Services website reads.

“Water infiltration, combined with the continual stress imposed by the flow of traffic, will considerably weaken the pavement. If this happens, potholes, major cracks, pavement deformation and ultimately road failure will result.

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Roads ACT says preventative resealing of the pavement is the most cost-effective method of maintaining good road conditions.

Engineering Australia, the peak body for the engineering profession in Australia, agree local road managers must ensure asphalt is refreshed and replaced frequently to avoid water seeping in.

“The use of high-quality materials with sufficient thickness in construction, effective drainage below the road, adequate drainage to prevent water from staying on the road’s surface, and frequent maintenance of subsurface drains will give roads the best chance of being resilient,” a spokesperson said.

“All councils and road authorities should ensure investment in research and data collection so that new road building and road maintenance meets current and predicted climate and usage conditions.”

The ACT Government is currently auditing the road surface condition as part of a new trial program involving rubbish trucks fitted with artificial-intelligence pothole detection technology. There is no report on how successful this has been yet.

The community can report potholes online via Fix My Street. Alternatively, they can phone Access Canberra on 13 22 81. Once reported, potholes are generally repaired within 10 working days, depending on weather and traffic. Potholes of immediate safety concern are generally fixed within 48 hours.

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Chef chris Ross7:57 pm 01 Nov 22

I hit one that was not there yesterday this morning and broke my front wheel and flatten my rear tyre as well , 11 other cars had the same problem I had to get towed

Capital Retro10:11 am 18 Sep 22

When we are all driving Teslas, which is the ultimate ACT government plan, there will be no need to fix potholes:


Only going to get worse, pushing EVs onto the punter, with these things gaining weight like a kid in a lolley shop – https://tinyurl.com/5aaf8w7w

Capital Retro2:55 pm 17 Sep 22

That’ s very interesting because the cost of registration of motor vehicles in the ACT depends on their weight. The cheapest rego is applied for vehicles under 975KG.

Is it possible that the EV (Extraordinarily Virtuous) ACT Government has deliberately waived the registration fee component on EVs to offset the weight component and reduce the aggregate cost of EV registration?

Nice one.

Its absolute rubbish. I hit a pothole on the monaro, burst both shocks, damaged both tires, buckled both wheels. 20k damage. Google maps zoom proved it was a repaired hole that had opened again. Submitted claim to gov. Took 7 months of redressing for the Gov legal entity delegate to deny. Its written in the ACT legislation that if they dont know of a problem, they arent liable. Poor repair and scanning of roads every four years means a load of denial. Absolute none service to the community.

Leon Arundell5:41 pm 15 Sep 22

About $1,000 of the “around $1100 a year for registration” is for compulsory third party insurance, to compensate people who are injured by motor vehicles. I suspect that most of the cost of road maintenance comes from general rates and taxes.

Leon Arundell no its not champ. have a look at your rego form. $400-$500 absolute maximum is on there from the insurance company. not sure where you get the $1000 from.

Macquariephil4:51 pm 15 Sep 22

It must partly be because of the “el cheapo” road sealing in the ACT, complete with rolling-in by we motorists.

You get what you pay for.

Can I submit a claim for the suspension bushes I had to replace, and the brake pads/discs I had to replace prematurely because of all the speedbumps everywhere?

The size of the pothole on Jabbanunga Avenue puts all other potholes to shame. This one consists of a series of four potholes and has been there for at least 3 years. The amount of dirt pushed out of the main one stands around 1 metre high, and prior to them throwing more dirt into it it would have been about a half metre deep. It has got to the stage that ACT roads have blocked off over half the roadway and the hole spreads further everytime it rains. If this crater was outside the Chief Minister’s (Minister for Personal Agendas and Toy Trains) house would it be fixed immediately?

No, there’s still room for him to squeeze past on his bicycle

After just having driven around Australia, there are far worse potholed and rough bitumen roads than here. Try northern NSW and parts of Queensland.

ChrisinTurner1:27 pm 15 Sep 22

I wonder if potholes are repaired by contractors who have a vested interest in doing a poor job so they get repeat business.

Of course by contractors. And the original road would have been laid by contractors too. It comes back to the quality and standard of the original road mix. This should and would not happen if the standard was met in the first place with a guarantee.
The contractors should be responbsible and guarantee the work for at least 20 years.

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