ACT Auditor-General’s Report on community paths

Community path in Evatt, Belconnen. Overgrown paths are common in Canberra and require maintenance.

The Act Auditor-General’s 2017 Report on community paths is damming and provides plenty of warning that the ACT Government needs to get on top of path maintenance. The most obvious thing is the lack of regular inspections.

Too long ago to remember

The ACT Government started an audit of ACT cycle paths in 2021. The Transport Minister at the Standing Committee on Planning, Transport And City Services, 4 March 2021, said he did not know when there was previously an audit of community paths. This indicates that we are still not on top of the issues brought up in Auditor–General’s report, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, from 9 June 2017.

MR PARTON:

I get a sense that the discussion on this extensive audit of shared paths and bike paths is not one in a series of extensive audits, that it has been a long time since we have assessed this information. Is that correct or not?

Mr Steel:

I think audits of our shared path network and footpath network have been done in the past. Shelly might be able to provide some further detail on the extent of those audits.

Transcript Of Evidence, Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, ACT Legislative Assembly, 4 March 2021, 86.

The combination of rapidly ageing paths and stagnant funding for maintenance demands action, said the ACT Auditory General (2017).

the annual maintenance budget has remained relatively stagnant since 2011‐12. Furthermore, the length of community paths increased by 13 percent over this period

Dr Maxine Cooper, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017. 91.

… the rapidly aging profile of the community path asset is forecast to become a significant budget constraint for Roads ACT, which is likely to require a significant capital investment in the future.

Dr Maxine Cooper, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017. 90.

60% of the asphalt and concrete paths network will reach or exceed the expected life span of 50 years by 2030.

Dr Maxine Cooper, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017. 86.

Extracts

This article is largely extracts from the report: Dr Maxine Cooper, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017.

Recommendations

RECOMMENDATION 12 MAINTAINING COMMUNITY PATHS

Roads ACT should develop and implement a:
a) renewal program for the timely repair of defects across the Territory; and
b) planned program of inspections of the condition and safety of community paths that are not in high priority locations. The frequency of inspections should be sufficient to reliably determine whether maintenance of paths is needed.

RECOMMENDATION 13 HIGH PRIORITY OF LOCATIONS OF COMMUNITY PATHS

Roads ACT should review the list of high priority locations of community paths, and their priority rating, on a biennial basis and update the Asset Management Operational Plan for Community
Paths and Strategic Asset Management Plan’ for the results of these reviews.

RECOMMENDATION 14 QUALITY CONTROL

Roads ACT should implement a system of verifying that concrete used by contractors to maintain community paths comply with ACT Government design standards.

RECOMMENDATION 15 COST OF MAINTAINING AND UPGRADING COMMUNITY PATHS

Assessments of the future costs of maintaining and upgrading community paths and the related funding requirements should be updated and included the Transport Canberra and City Services
Strategic Asset Management Plan
.

RECOMMENDATION 16 SERVICE LEVEL TARGETS

Roads ACT should maintain records of the timeliness of the replacement of paving or concrete in general and for shopping areas and monitor whether replacements are made within target timeframes.

Dr Maxine Cooper, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017. 14-15.

Context

5.2 Community paths consist of footpaths and cycle paths and include public pavements around shopping centres and town centres. These are used by pedestrians, cyclists and low speed motorised mobility devices (electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters or buggies that cannot travel over ten kilometres per hour).

Dr Maxine Cooper, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017. 81.

5.4 Roads ACT maintains approximately 2 870 kilometres of community paths in Canberra’s 110 suburbs. These consist of 2 430 kilometres of footpaths and 440 kilometres of off‐road cycle paths and, in 2015‐16, cost approximately $3 million to maintain.

Dr Maxine Cooper, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017. 81.

Developing a maintenance program for community paths

5.9 As discussed in Chapter 3 Road Pavement, a comprehensive planned maintenance program keeps paths in a satisfactory condition and safe for all users.

5.10 As the majority of community paths in the Territory are concrete based, preventative maintenance cannot be undertaken, as there are no preventative actions such as resurfacing available. As a result, only corrective actions such as path replacement or repair can be undertaken in response to identified defects.

5.11 To identify defects, Roads ACT need to develop a comprehensive inspection program across the Territory. This issue is discussed further from paragraph 5.21.

Dr Maxine Cooper, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017. 82.

Operational plan for community paths

5.16 The Roads ACT Asset Management Operational Plan for Community Paths in the ACT (2010) has a detailed description of service levels for community paths with policies and issues relating to the maintenance of community paths. However, the most recent version of this plan is dated 2010. Under the plan’s review timeframes, it should have been reviewed three times since 2010. Refer to Recommendation Six (a) for a recommendation in relation to this matter.

Dr Maxine Cooper, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017. 83.

Comment: It is now 2021, which means the plan should have been review 5 times since 2010.

5.20 The Roads ACT Asset Management Operational Plan for Community Paths is out of date and does not have information on operating costs, resource requirements or environmental impacts associated with the maintenance of community paths. This information can be used to assist in effectively managing maintenance activities.

Dr Maxine Cooper, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017. 84.

Identifying required maintenance

High priority locations

5.22 In relation to high priority locations, the Roads ACT Operational Plan states:

… All suburbs are given a ranking based on the frequency of use and pedestrian mix, higher usage areas receive early treatment followed by suburbs with less usage and so on. In time it can be expected that all suburbs will have been systematically inspected and repaired…

Based on frequency of use, past compensation claims, and pedestrian generators such as shopping centre precincts, Strategic Asset Management identified 26 suburbs as high replacement priorities… Other community paths located within the Territory are inspected and scheduled for replacement on a reactive basis.

Dr Maxine Cooper, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017. 84.

5.26 High priority locations are assigned a priority rating which determines the frequency of inspections of community paths. The high priority locations and frequency of inspections are shown in Table 5‐1.

Dr Maxine Cooper, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017. 85.
Table 5-1 High priority locations and frequency of inspections of community paths
Table 5-1 High priority locations and frequency of inspections of community paths. Dr Maxine Cooper, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017. 85.

5.27 Planned inspections of community paths in high priority locations include the reduction of any potential trip hazards (comprising of vertical displacements of 12 to 35 mm or greater)
by a mechanical pavement grinder.
Additionally, visual inspections are conducted by field officers from Roads ACT. Under the Roads ACT Operational Plan defects in community paths are risk rated and prioritised as shown in Table 5‐2.

Dr Maxine Cooper, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017. 85.
Table 5-2 Risk rating assigned to defects in community paths. Dr Maxine Cooper, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017. 85.

Identification of maintenance in lower priority locations

5.30 The Roads ACT Operational Plan discusses lifecycle management for community paths and estimates that:

60% of the asphalt and concrete paths network will reach or exceed the expected life span of 50 years by 2030. The existing inspection systems are expected to identify areas when path
replacement is required.

5.31 A planned program of inspections assists in the timely identification of where the replacement of community paths is needed. A planned program also assists in the detection of areas where maintenance is needed to prevent the early deterioration of
paths. The Transport Canberra City Services Strategic Asset Management Plan identifies the financial benefits of timely identification and rectification of defects:

It is economical to repair lower priority defects before they become larger defects… It should be noted that failing to address the existing and on‐going backlog could result in the accrual of a significant backlog by 2022…

5.32 A planned program of inspections is not performed for community paths in locations that have not been assessed by Roads ACT as high priority. These lower priority locations represent approximately 77 percent of community paths in Canberra. For these locations, Roads ACT relies on the reporting of defects by members of the public that have been lodged as a complaint through Access Canberra, or defects reported by field officers from Roads ACT.

Dr Maxine Cooper, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017. 86.

Cost to maintain community paths

5.52 The cost of maintenance work on community paths varies according to the type of repair. For example, under the Current Panel Contract (which ceases in November 2017) the cost of maintenance work on footpaths ranges from approximately $133 per m2 to $301 per m2; vehicular crossings from approximately $189 per L/m to $223 per L/m; and pram crossings averaging $1 005 per item.

5.53 The length of community paths and their annual maintenance budget over the past five years from 2011‐12 to 2015‐16 is outlined in Table 5‐3.

Dr Maxine Cooper, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017. 90.
Table 5-3 Length of community paths and their annual maintenance budget

5.56 The Transport Canberra and City Services Strategic Asset Management Plan identifies a backlog of low priority maintenance projects valued at approximately $4.8 million and notes that maintenance budgets focus on high and medium priority works. It states that:

It is economical to repair lower priority defects before they become larger defects… It should be noted that failing to address the existing and on‐going backlog could result in the accrual of a significant backlog by 2022…

the rapidly aging profile of the community path asset is forecast to become a significant budget constraint for Roads ACT, which is likely to require a significant capital investment in the future.

Dr Maxine Cooper, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017. 90.

5.57 While the Roads ACT 2013 Strategic Asset Management Plan identifies that there is a ‘rapidly aging profile of the community path asset’ and that ‘this is forecast to become a significant budget constraint for Roads ACT’, if the non recurrent funding provided in 2011‐12 and 2012‐13 is disregarded, the annual maintenance budget has remained relatively stagnant since 2011‐12. Furthermore, the length of community paths increased by 13 percent over this period.

Dr Maxine Cooper, Maintenance Of Selected Road Infrastructure Assets Report No. 5 / 2017, Act Auditor–General’s Report, 9 June 2017. 91.

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