Reading roads: how Council maintains your road network

Caring for the roads is one of Wagga Wagga City Council’s most important tasks. The process behind maintaining our extensive road network may be more complicated than it first appears.

With 2288 kilometres of roads to care for within Wagga Wagga’s local government area, maintaining the network is a critical element of Council’s assets management strategy. Far from selecting which roads to maintain on an ad hoc basis, there’s a very detailed strategy behind it.

Robots and experts

The process begins with laser x-ray road profiling, where every three years an automated profilometer device scans the surfaces of the road network, detecting defects. The device provides information that allows roads to be condition-rated on a scale between 1–5; 1 being excellent, 5 being very poor. This gives Council’s Maintenance Management team a great understanding of the condition of the total road network – knowledge that enables them to develop a draft road maintenance program.

The next step involves an in-person site validation. Jamie Harwood, Engineer – Maintenance Management, is one of Council’s experts who buckle up to ‘read the road’.

“Every year, surveillance officers head out to drive the entire network, checking the road surface and base conditions,” said Mr Harwood.

“When you look at the road you can work out whether it’s a base or surface issue from the pattern of cracks and the surface shape. If it’s a base problem, we’ll need to fix the entire road from the bottom to the top; if it’s a surface issue, we just need to resurface it with a binder and aggregate.”

Road priorities

Once the road assessment process is complete, the roads with their individual condition rankings – gathered from the robotic profiling and expert site validation – are grouped into categories.

Within each category there is an acceptable threshold rating, which helps determine the roads requiring attention. Some of the parameters Council work with to prioritise proposed roadworks are traffic volume, traffic loads, road deterioration and traffic speed.

“When it comes to speed, for example, we give high-speed regional roads a high priority,” said Mr Harwood.

“Vehicles hitting a pothole at 100 km/h are at greater risk of damage than those encountering the same pothole at 50 km/h.”

Each category fits within a hierarchy that helps the team work out where to best spend the road maintenance budget.

Making decisions

Once all information is consolidated, the team makes an informed decision in relation to the treatment for each particular road segment – choosing between general maintenance, resealing, rehabilitation, or reconstruction.

Mr Harwood was happy to quell concerns that Council spent most of its efforts maintaining smaller side streets rather than larger, busier streets.

“The smaller streets that are getting maintained require a lot less work as it is generally preventive maintenance,” said Mr Harwood.

“This may give the impression that we’re only working on small street sections because we can cover a lot more road network and can move site to site.

“In fact, we spend a large proportion of Council’s budget on major road networks – recent examples are Farrer Road, Holbrook Road, Lake Albert Road, Fernleigh Road and Elizabeth Avenue.”

Dobney Avenue and Pearson Street

These are two critical roads that Council is planning to rehabilitate.

“We want to reassure the community that these road segments haven’t been overlooked,” said Mr Harwood.

“Dobney Avenue and Pearson Street form part of our long-term road strategy plan. We just need to be mindful that these streets require extensive budgets for the correct remediation technique.

“We’re planning to carry out works within this road network in the 2021–2022 financial year.

“We understand that, in the meantime, general maintenance may not seem like the answer, however Dobney Avenue and Pearson Street require extensive investigation to determine the appropriate remediation – some road networks require more planning than others to rehabilitate.

“Making careful, strategic preparations around these types of road networks is essential to ensure that we minimise community and traffic distributions while still maintaining the best outcome for the long-term lifecycle of our entire road network.”

Residents’ role

While Council staff work to assess and maintain the road network, community feedback is a welcome contribution.

“The community are valuable to Council’s road network efforts and we take resident requests seriously,” said Mr Harwood.

“As soon as we hear about a road issue, one of our surveillance officers will head out to inspect it, because the safety of road users is our number one priority.

“Due to the large network of roads we’re looking after, community requests not only help us keep the roads safe but can also assist with our future road programs.”

If you have a request regarding a road issue, visit wagga.nsw.gov.au/servicerequests or call 1300 292 442.

IMAGE: Jamie Harwood is one of Council’s experts who help manage the city’s extensive road network.

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