The challenge of financial sustainability for many Australian councils impacts their ability to deliver efficient road maintenance programs. This is a particular problem for those with large road networks, and the increasing cost of raw materials and haul distance for re-sheeting.
At IPWEA’s recent Sustainability in Public Works Conference in Melbourne, the need to address the road maintenance backlog by eliminating inefficiencies and investing in innovative road management technology was a recurring theme.
Stabilcorp, a regional Australian road maintenance business, shared their fuel-efficient approach to shoulder widening with the ShoulderMaster, a skid steer shoulder paving attachment.
Downer highlighted sustainable advancements within the flexible pavement industry, including their success with warm mix asphalt, and low C02 asphalt and spray seal.
Stephanie Camarena from Factor Ten discussed building resilience in unsealed road projects
and her study of PolyCom Stabilising Aid, used by councils and contractors in road maintenance and construction as a cost-effective, low carbon alternative to lime and cement.
During her keynote presentation, Camarena presented a case study on Mildura Rural City Council.
“What I found was the council has a range of initiatives that are thoughtful, integrated and deeply aligned with key sustainability principles,” Camarena explained.
With 4500 kms of unsealed roads to maintain, Mildura council uses the road stabilisation product in their road maintenance program to extend the life of the roads as an alternative to gravel re-sheeting.
“In this example, financial constraints have pushed the council to think innovation,” Camarena said.
“They have changed their stabilisation design to adopt more sustainable and environmentally friendly products and have a monitoring and performance programme in place to measure the benefits.”
By rejuvenating the in-situ materials, the Mildura shire road crew has not only reduced the financial and environmental cost of winning and hauling virgin quarry materials, but cut road maintenance by building stronger pavements with a higher resistance to water and traffic wear.
Camarena said that rather than following a program of works, the council does not have a road management schedule, reviewing work in consultation with the community to maintain roads on a priority basis.
“They have looked at the unsealed roads program as an innovative, systems thinking approach and have transformed the maintenance activities to align with community expectations and the financial and material constraints they face,” she explained.
It is innovative solutions like these that will enable local government to safeguard the future of our infrastructure and increase the number of roads that can be improved with the budget provided.