10 January 2022

Opposition tells the government to get serious about fixing potholes

| Lottie Twyford
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The Opposition is calling on the government to fix the Territory’s growing number of potholes. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Canberrans are frustrated with the state of the roads around town and the proliferation of potholes after months of wet weather, exacerbated over the holiday period by more rain and storms, the Opposition says.

According to Shadow Minister for City Services Nicole Lawder, cars are almost disappearing into large, dangerous holes on the roads, and it’s high time the government did something about it.

She’s heard from several constituents who have had to fork out for car and tyre repairs arising from close encounters with potholes.

“For example, Sulwood Drive alongside Mount Taylor is in an appalling condition. Some potholes have been recently filled, and with more rain, are already crumbling again,” Ms Lawder explained.

“In one case a ‘hazard ahead’ sign has been put into place where a hole is so large that you can hear the noise of cars scraping into and out of it, or else cars must veer onto the other side of the road to avoid the hazard.”

Yet this isn’t the only road of concern, Ms Lawder said.

“There are examples like this all across Canberra.”

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Potholes open up as water seeps into cracks and erodes the base layer of the pavement.

Canberra Toyota Belconnen service manager Scott Attwell explained that the damage caused to tyres from potholes could range from an easy-to-fix replacement tyre to something more severe and costly.

“If you hit a pothole, it can cause damage to tyres. It can also break the cords in the sidewalls and bend the wheels if you hit the rims,” Mr Attwell explained.

But more extensive damage can be recorded if you hit a “big-enough pothole,” he noted.

“It can cause suspension damage and throw your wheel alignment out.”

It’s difficult to put a price tag on how much repairs for these kinds of accidents cost, Mr Attwell explained, “but it can start to add up pretty quickly if it’s a rim or anything more than that”.

READ ALSO BEST OF 2021: Are Canberra drivers becoming more aggressive?

The government has previously acknowledged the difficulty wet weather poses to repairing roads.

According to the most recent data available, pothole repairs almost tripled from 2719 in the drier 2019-20 financial year to 6375 in 2020-21.

In total, 11,760 square metres of hot asphalt patching works were also completed in the year, an increase of 134 per cent in pothole repairs and a 391 per cent increase in patching works on the previous financial year.

In June 2021 alone, more than 500 potholes were fixed.

In the 2019-20 and 2020-21 financial years, the ACT Government received 61 claims from drivers for damage to their vehicles from potholes and it paid out $37,320.

However, some people whose vehicles have been damaged by potholes have said that making a claim is itself a challenge.

Potholes can be reported to the ACT Government via the Fix My Street portal. In the last financial year, 3297 reports of pothole-related enquiries were submitted, making it the third-most reported-on issue.

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Mike of Canberra1:12 pm 14 Jan 22

Be it the state of the roads, our shabby, overgrown public green areas, pothole ridden roads or our deficient public housing estate, what this all boils down to is that the current ACT Government simply doesn’t know how to manage it financial resources. They have introduced a land tax on top of normal annual rates as a means of securing their revenue base while phasing out stamp duty. Fair enough – this is a good reform. But then, we still find that they can’t afford to keep our urban areas clean, repair our roads or provide enough public housing to meet demand. And the public transport system is deficient to say the least.

The reasons for this are simple to find. First, there’s the tram to nowhere, an ongoing drain on public finances built on outmoded design that prevents route flexibility and is the reason we now have a much lower quality bus service than we once did. Then there’s the stubborn insistence on building ghettos on some of the most expensive land in the Territory, all the while ignoring the potential for this land, if sold, to fund higher quality, properly “salt and peppered” public housing in less expensive areas. But no, they insist on holding very expensive land and incurring the ongoing costs that go with this, all in the name of an attempt at egalitarianism that defeats its own purpose.

All of this points to a government past its use-by date and displaying the lethargy and hubris you would expect in such a situation. But the answer is in not only our hands but also those of our perpetual opposition party, one that seems a little too cosy with the trappings of opposition. We need change and it’s up to them to offer that to us.

Spending on roads is certainly a large part of costs to taxpayers. Perhaps a cost-benefit analysis should be done. After all, that money could be spent on hospitals, schools and public housing for the homeless. Just a thought.

Nah that is not applied to what some consider to be luxuries, like public transport.

Good point Astro,
and it should happen for all major projects, road or otherwise. It’s the only way we can properly allocate resources and limit the chance for governments to pork barrel and waste money on poorly thought out and unneeded white elephants that have far cheaper options to deliver the same service.
Although, I’ll note it, full economic analysis wouldn’t lend itself to smaller suburban streets which are an essential transport service that are inherent to developing any parcel of land, without removing the ability of residents to have private transport, changing the very way our society operates.

The last major road project in the ACT was the Majura Parkway. Here’s an example of the economic analysis that you request:

Note, how positive the result is and no need to fudge the figures or include extraneous or ill defined benefits to make it viable.

Glad to see you’re finally seeing the light, perhaps you’ll now agree on how bad the light rail project is, due to it’s woeful cost benefit ratios and your agreement that it’s an important part of assessing project viability.

Good to have you on board. Toot toot.

Hey chewy, great to see that you agree on a consistent approach to cost-benefit analysis for both road and rail projects. And thank you for pointing out that the last cost benefit for the former (road) was 12 years ago! Obviously some catching up to do there. Of course both are essential services, agreed. Happy motoring.

Of course I’m consistent. Unlike others, I don’t change my position based on whether or not I personally like the project or think its trendy.

And yes, the last major road upgrade project in the ACT occurred 12 years ago although there’s more planned. I fully agree those projects should have the same rigorous assessment to ensure efficient expenditure.

Glad that we are now agreeing on this consistent approach and it’s particularly heartening to see you coming around to how poor the business case for light rail is based on this.

Obviously we should keep pushing that future stages of light rail should only be approved after rigorous assessments and comparisons against alternative options and funding mechanisms to ensure equity rather than the woefully inadequate work done to date.

Congratulations on seeing the light on how good infrastructure and transport planning should be done.

Sure, there needs to be consistency: cost benefit for roads and rail. I hadn’t actually made a specific comment about any particular CBA so you may be confusing my posts with someone else’s ? There does seem to be an attitude that any spending on roads is OK but the same people seem to get very upset about spending on public transport. Bit outdated with the comments sometimes.

You say you want consistency but then seemingly want to ignore the woeful cost benefits ratio for light rail, which you’ve previously claimed to support regardless of any objective evidence to its viability.

Almost like you don’t actually want the consistency you were claiming and your orignal post was a disingenuous red herring.

But that can’t be right surely…..

Chewy that’s not how I read Astro’s post.

The way I read it is that before any major project the cost benefit does need to be analysed. But that’s not to say the outcome of the analysis needs to be identical as there are always factors that swing projects beyond pure cost benefit analysis’s.

Public transport is a perfect example. Except for a few locations in the world of public transport of any type including buses had to pay for itself via a positive cost benefit analysis we wouldn’t have any public transport. So things like social responsibility and even politics come into play.

Often people on here in particular carry on about light rail in particular but see road projects differently.

And even with Majura parkway (which BTW I consider to be essential to the ACT arterial road network) there are a number of rather rubbery costs which pushes that project into positive territory. Same of those are things people would have complained about if they were in relation to light rail. For example factoring in the cost savings of reduced accident rates, reduced carbon emissions (if that one was per of the light rail business case people like Capital Retro would be claiming it as virtue signalling, but on a road project it’s ok).

There is even reduced operating cost for vehicles even though of course the government doesn’t benefit from them. Whereas any gain in real estate values on light rail was howled down even though they are both similar.

No, the original post to which you refer was making the point that some people keep harping on about spending money on roads without any need of oversight or cost benefit analysis. They just want to apply such rigorous analysis to public transport (mostly because they rarely, if ever, use it). Not saying you’re one of them. Relates to what Paul Keating used to say about backing the horse called “self interest” because you’re likely to get a win.

“Public transport is a perfect example. Except for a few locations in the world of public transport of any type including buses had to pay for itself via a positive cost benefit analysis we wouldn’t have any public transport. So things like social responsibility and even politics come into play.”

I would fully agree with you if this was a predominantly public transport project. But it’s not, it’s a land development project, with a public transport component.

If you wanted to justify the need for a public transport project on these routes, there’s no way that the expense of light rail could be justified anything soon.

“Often people on here in particular carry on about light rail in particular but see road projects differently.”

Can’t see anyone doing that for major road projects but if they are, they are wrong also.

“There is even reduced operating cost for vehicles even though of course the government doesn’t benefit from them. Whereas any gain in real estate values on light rail was howled down even though they are both similar.”

Firstly, the assessment of the Majura Parkway’s economic benefit is about as standard as you get, there are no rubbery figures and heroic assumptions like what was put in to the Light Rail business cases that were savaged by the Auditor General.

But you’re right that major road projects should look at different funding mechanisms where beneficiaries pay. Toll roads or higher usage charges should be far more common.

And I’m commenting on the people who are using the red herring of spending on roads to justify wasteful spending on unviable projects like light rail.

You can’t attack people for a position that is fundamentally the same as your own. That’s usually referred to as hypocrisy.

The cost of spending on roads is certainly not a red herring, unless you think we should just ignore it; then the question is why do you think we should just ignore it. In fact, the article was about the cost of road maintenance,, not public transport costs. So, perhaps try to stay on topic.

it is a red herring when you haven’t raised any specific road expenditure as requiring further analysis or justification, nor proposed how the government could and should assess that expenditure for the maintenance of existing assets.

You were attempting to (poorly) compare the expenditure on roads to your favourite Light Rail project and now your hypocrisy and superficial comparison has been called out, you don’t want to discuss it further. I’m quite happy to discuss in detail how large amounts of this road expenditure is fundamentally different as well as how all projects in this space could and should be given similar scrutiny to avoid government waste and pork barrelling.

But if you want to “stay on topic”, this article is not about the cost of road maintenance, in fact government expenditure is not mentioned once in the article, which is about the performance of government departments and the maintenance of existing road assets.

So perhaps you should take your own advice and stick to the topic.

HiddenDragon8:00 pm 11 Jan 22

To have any hope of shifting the “yeah, nah” voters who don’t like the ACT government but always end up finding a reason to vote for it yet again, the Liberals need to explain how they would do a better job with roads and how they would pay for it.

If the Liberals are looking for grassroots issues which might (if handled intelligently) give voters a choice and a reason to change, the story on tonight’s local ABC TV news about suburban eucalypts would be another for the list. The fact that the Liberals have not touched the issue of dangerous and damaging suburban trees (which is much more than an annoyance for many Canberrans) looks very much like a symptom of their inability to understand and connect with the voters they need.

The goldfish of the ACT.
Government makes a promise every election and only seems to deliver for half, 4 years later they have forgotten what was promised and the same is promised again.
Libs are just saying they’ll actually do what is promised, but don’t have access to cost and funds things or know the day to day transactions.

To fund roads, just cancel the light rail to no where.
To fix the roads, don’t do stupid things to save money. Chip sealing the parkway lasts about a week and costs dozens of new windscreens.

There is also no real media in the ACT so the government gets to push whatever agenda they want.

I’d vote for any party that ran on a platform of allowing the removal of gum trees from the suburban areas.

The Liberals have raised the issue of dangerous trees and the government’s aversion to removing them multiple times.

The liberals raise what ever issues they think seem to irritate people to garner votes. But deep down most of those issues are actually non issues for many and they known they wouldn’t do, or be able to do anything different.

Potholes are from the Mount Taylor carpark. Lots of cars stopping and trying to dodge cars in and out and ripping up the cheap road.
Why is an 80km road like Sulwood drive not divided?

Spent huge on the we are duplicating this road signs years ago and not a sod turned.
Yet all this money is allocated to roads in the budget where does it end up?

The line item for roads in the budget just seems to be the slush fund for the year.

ChrisinTurner2:05 pm 11 Jan 22

They are not even repaired properly. Repairs seldom last 6 months so they will never get ahead.

You do realise that for the most part pothole repairs are not designed to last that long? Problem with potholes is you need to fix the underlying cause. So they fill temporarily and then usually at road revealing time that is when the pothole and surrounding road surface gets dig out and the road based repaired and road fixed.

The latter of course takes time, sometimes years.

dingus_maximus11:12 am 11 Jan 22

I dodge at least 6 major ones on my drive home from civic to the southside everyday and they are just getting worse. But hey lets build stage 2A of the tram to nowhere!

You are making the assumption that money is the cause of the pothole repair delay. I would suggest money isn’t the issue.

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