During yet another year plagued by wet weather, pothole repairs shot up and crews struggled to keep on top of mowing.
Transport Canberra and City Services’ 2021-22 annual report has shown pothole problems continue to skyrocket as the rain wreaks havoc on the Territory’s aging roads.
These much-bemoaned headaches for motorists are caused when water seeps into cracks that develop as roads age.
This, combined with the continued stress imposed by the traffic flow, erodes the pavement and leads to potholes and major cracks forming.
Crews repaired 7795 potholes and patched 83,370 square metres of roads during the year.
That’s an increase of 1420 on last year’s tally of 6375.
In the much drier year 2019/20, only 2179 potholes had to be fixed.
TCCS’s annual report stated that the general road resealing program – a preventative maintenance treatment – was hindered by COVID-19 lockdowns and poor weather.
“COVID-19 impacts on suppliers as well as prolonged wet weather resulted in less reseal of municipal roads against the original target,” the report read.
Roads ACT says this preventative resealing is the most cost-effective method of maintaining good road conditions.
To compensate for being unable to hit the target for resealing, crews carried out asphalt resurfacing instead.
Asphalt resurfacing is a process that uses a hot mix of bitumen and aggregate. The hot material is tipped into a paver which places a uniform layer of the product on the road and is compacted while still hot.
But as this is more expensive than the waterproof resealing, it meant less area could be resurfaced than hoped.
According to TCCS, crews mowed over 35,000 hectares of public land.
Last year, crews increased their mowing program by 43 per cent to smash through a “historic high” of 42,000 hectares of public land. TCCS attributed the rise to the need to do multiple passes to cut some areas as La Niña led to long grass growth.
It said some pandemic-related disruptions were associated with sourcing parts.
Additional resources have been allocated for mowing, with the latest Territory Budget funding a $1.2 million rapid response team of 10 new staff across three teams.
Suburbs and open space areas are supposed to be mowed every four weeks, and arterial road areas every five weeks.
The Canberra Liberals have repeatedly called on the government to up its game when it comes to path repairs, potholes and mowing.
But City Services Minister Chris Steel’s reply is normally blunt: he can’t control the rain and the government is allocating funding as required.
TCCS crews were also kept busy responding to more than 4000 clean-up requests in the wake of the January supercell storm.
With a third consecutive La Niña now underway, it’s likely there will be a similar story to be told this time next year.
Canberrans are encouraged to fill out an online form at Fix My Street to alert authorities to issues near them, including potholes, long grass, streetlight-outs and more.
The average turnaround time for resolving matters via the online portal last year was 52 days.