Mount Rae Rd resident Norm Timms was impacted by the Cobraball bushfires and his property is surrounded by rural roads.
Mount Rae Rd resident Norm Timms was impacted by the Cobraball bushfires and his property is surrounded by rural roads.

Criteria for rural road upgrades badly flawed?

A BUMPY ride along a dirt road proved a light-bulb moment for Livingstone Mayor Bill Ludwig.

It was the moment he discovered that his shire's methodology for maintenance and upgrades of rural roads could be badly flawed.

Recently Cr Ludwig and a council manager went out to take readings on roads thought to have been impacted by last November's Cobraball bushfires.

Reports were that some of the unsealed thoroughfares had taken a hit from the amount of heavy traffic that conversed them during the disaster.

Cr Ludwig and his colleague had just driven the stretch from the Lake Mary Rd turn-off to Cobraball when it was revealed that something could be wrong with the way the council has been assessing these roads.

As a general rule, the shire's roads are deemed in need of maintenance or upgrades at an intervention level of seven.

When Cr Ludwig asked the manager for a reading, he got the response "an average of 5.2."

The mayor thought to himself "hang on, I've just had a fairly bumpy ride up to this point."

So he asked his colleague if the reading could be broken down into increments.

As it turned out, they could - every 100m.

"The results of that reading at the first section was a 12 - that's 1.8 times the intervention level," Cr Ludwig said.

"The next 100m was at seven.

"And the next 100m was at 11.

"After that, the averages were all down at around about the 5.2 mark."

Cr Ludwig said the other critical part of the discovery was that this particular section of road was on a hill.

"It was a hill coming up, slight grade, and a steeper grade coming down.

"And if you have ­somebody that does not know the road and they're going for their Sunday drive, they might be happily driving along at 80kmh in an ordinary sedan, not a four-wheel-drive.

"And if you have an expectation that the road has an even grade, and all of a sudden you hit an 11, that is the potential for a dangerous situation."

As a result of this experience, Cr Ludwig has requested new readings be taken for roads that people have recently complained about.

"But at some stage you have to say, what is the quantum where we go and intervene to patch an area," he said.

Cr Ludwig moved in urgent business at the last council meeting that the authority review its criteria which determines when the shire's rural roads are eligible for maintenance.

That was supported and furthermore it was music to Cr Glenda Mather's ears.

No-one at the council table campaigns harder for more money to be spent on the shire's rural roads than Cr Mather.

In fact she is so persistent, some of her fellow councillors at times seem to get sick of hearing her beat that drum.

But with almost 800km of dirt roads in the shire, she says it's a cause that she will not stop championing.