Neglected roads need millions

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Nelson’s roads need almost $5 million to bring them up to scratch after decades of underinvestment from previous councils.

The situation was laid bare in council’s recent 2018-28 Transport Asset Management Plan (AMP) which identified a $4.7 million backlog in road surfacing.

Council’s manager infrastructure Alec Louverdis, says although there is a large backlog, the roads aren’t in terrible condition.

“In terms of why we haven’t maintained our roads; our roads aren’t at the point where they’re going to fall apart, we’re not at a place where we’re going to drive and come across a massive pot hole.”

The degradation came from exposure to UV light along with heavy traffic flows.

“Yes, we’ve underfunded some of our roads, but we’re closing that gap.”

The plan states that “if council want to catch up and keep up” it needs to spend $4.7 million in 2018/19 and then $700,000 and $600,000 in the two years following.

Council has decided to spread the backlog out over the next 10 years, spending $1.17 million each year.

Alec says a huge part of the issue is that they need better data on the state of the roads, which is not country-wide.

He says, in line with NZTA, they have been trying to “sweat” the assets to get the best life out of them.

“But as more data has come up, there has been more money put into maintenance.

“We’ve almost doubled what we are spending in renewing our assets.”

Heavy vehicle traffic on Nelson’s key freight routes has been increasing over time and Alec says it is these vehicles, not cars, that cause damage to the roads.

Heavy traffic is measured on key roads around the city and is shown to have increased on Bolt Rd, Quarantine Rd, Pascoe St, Nayland Rd, Saxton Rd and Wildman Ave.

Three options were presented to council to deal with the surface backlog as part of the Road Pavement and Surface Lifestyle Management Plan.

–  Maintain investment level plus allowance for network growth.
–  Reduce investment level by increasing the forecast useful life on chip-sealed surfaces
–  Increase investment level to include allowance for network growth plus additional rehabilitation amounts.

The transport report says that option two was chosen because it allowed for better data collection and modelling.

This was in line with recommendations from NZTA that suggested Nelson extends the life of its roads by two years.

CEO Pat Dougherty says the problem has been picked up before it becomes “endemic” and turns into something a lot more serious.

Alec agrees and says: “We’ve done quite a bit of work, we’re just doing a lot more.”