Pot holes pay price of safety

By Charmayne Allison

MEMBER for Murray Plains Peter Walsh has criticised the decision to use VicRoads funds to repair damaged wire rope barriers.

Mr Walsh said locals would be ‘‘alarmed’’ money which could be used to fix potholes in country roads, crumbling road shoulders and cut roadside grass would now be diverted to repair the safety barriers.

Under questioning at the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) this week, VicRoads chief executive Robyn Seymour stated repairs to wire rope barriers were being funded from VicRoads routine maintenance funds as well as the TAC.

“Previously we’ve been advised that repair of barriers was fully funded by the TAC, which we all pay for through third party insurance on our car registrations,’’ Mr Walsh said.

“To hear that the VicRoads maintenance fund is also being plundered to repair barriers is a concern, particularly after the roll-out was botched by the Labor Government.

“Roadside barriers can be life-savers when placed in the right spot, but there have been major mistakes in their placement and location, with many placed too close to the road and hampering access for emergency services.

“As the rollout of wire rope barriers continues, it can be expected that maintenance costs will also rise, further diluting money for actual road works.

“How many potholes will go unfixed, how many roadsides will have dangerously long grass because money is being spent on fixing wire rope barriers?”

Regional Roads Victoria (a country-focused division within VicRoads) chief regional roads officer Paul Northey confirmed Vicroads was partnering with the TAC to maintain the new flexible safety barriers.

Last financial year, the TAC contributed more than 50 per cent of barrier repair costs through this partnership.

‘‘On top of this, Regional Roads Victoria has rebuilt, repaired and resurfaced more than 1500 kilometres of regional roads this year and the most recent budget ensures we can do the same again next financial year,’’ he said.

‘‘Flexible safety barriers are saving lives across Victoria by preventing people running off the road or into oncoming traffic.

‘‘Every barrier hit represents a potentially serious or even fatal crash prevented – and repairing damaged barriers is just as important as installing them.’’

Safety barriers have been installed on Victorian roads for more than a decade, and Vicroads claimed the cost of repairing them is a very small part of Regional Roads Victoria’s overall maintenance spend.

Vicroads also believed as drivers become more familiar with driving on roads with barriers, and as technology such as lane assist is used more widely, barriers will be hit less frequently.