Fixing our roads to ruin in NSW

THEY say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

In New South Wales, it is paved with pothole-ridden bitumen leading to rickety old bridges on the brink of collapse.

Council representatives from across NSW have met with State and Federal MPs at the 2015 Local Roads Congress in Sydney to share ideas about stopping degraded transport infrastructure from becoming a death trap.

NSW Roads and Transport Directorate manager Mick Savage said more than 85% of all roads and bridges across NSW were managed by local governments.

And the backlog of required maintenance and upgrades is enormous.

"What's really clear is that this issue demands urgent action to implement a new funding model across the three tiers of government to keep NSW moving and address the huge challenges faced by councils, particularly in regional NSW," Mr Savage said.

"The current $447 million annual funding gap faced by councils means urgent action is needed to stop the decline in our roads and bridges.

"We've been undertaking independent reviews of the funding needed for councils to manage their transport infrastructure since 2006.

"The results show that local councils and their engineers have aggressively pursued positive actions to address road safety, help support the economy and provide social equity, by reducing the annual funding gap by almost $271 million."

Despite their efforts, more than a quarter of timber bridges remain in a poor condition.

NSW Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia president Warren Sharpe said regional councils had 10,067 bridges to look after, with low ratepayer densities unable to cover the cost of their maintenance alone.

He left the conference optimistic about the future, calling for revenue from the long-term partial lease of the state's electricity network infrastructure to be funnelled into getting local roads and bridges up to scratch.

"We're also calling on the NSW Government to put in place a new rating system that acts as an incentive for NSW councils to increase density to meet the growth forecasts in our cities and allow much need federal assistance grants to be released to support regional communities where it's really needed," Mr Sharpe said.

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