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Road Asset Management

Updated: Dec 17, 2022

I am a degree qualified civil engineer and was working in local government asset management in Western Australia since 2013. Local governments have a lot of assets - 'possessions' if you like - and spread over a large area. These things include roads, footpaths, buildings including libraries and recreation centres, parks and other things. Somebody, in fact a lot of people, need to make sure these things can actually be looked after and without the local government running out of money! One of the biggest asset classes - or type of possession if you like - is roads. These take a lot of money to maintain and in the modern era, we can't really do without them.

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Roads are simple, yet can be quite complex to manage. After all, in many cases there are heavy trucks driving over them. If a road is not well looked after, little holes in the shape of pots - or 'potholes' - can form from the action of vehicles driving over a weak spot. In the case of a sealed road, like above, if rainwater gets into a crack and is driven over enough, the granular pavement underneath can get soggy and weak, becoming a bit of a mess. If big enough, a hazardous mess.

Avoiding this mess is worthwhile, depending on how important the road is and how much traffic the road gets, as well as what kind of traffic. Therefore, an inspection program is required of the road network, which can easily span hundreds of kilometres in total for a single local government. Due to competing demands placed on the local government, this needs to be well targeted and scheduled. For example, we might simply want to know how many potholes and pothole patches there are on a low order road for accessing houses, or for a busier road, we might want to be even more proactive and find out how cracked the road is. Fortunately, for Western Australia there are very good guides available, including by the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (IPWEA) and Austroads.

After checking out how the roads are, we can figure out what to do with it. And there are many things we can do with it, depending on how it is, how much traffic it gets, how important the road is and whether there are actually user complaints regarding the road. For major works like putting a new surface on or rebuilding the road, this is where it can get tricky. Ideally, a ranking system would be applied that is well documented and even with input from major stakeholders like Council, industry and a community consultation. There is detailed and comprehensive advice available on the entire process from IPWEA and Austroads. This takes a lot of time and effort to establish and we have to fix those roads pretty quick, so if a local government's asset management practices still have room for improvement, often we just have to make a best judgement and run with it.

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