FOI 21-023 2021 Estimates: community path maintenance

The estimates are part of the ACT Budget process. The estimates are a question and answer, verbal inquiry that provide an opportunity for the opposition and crossbench, to scrutinise the performance of the ACT Government and its directorates. The Freedom of Information (FOI) request 21-023 released the notes for Transport Minister and officials from the directorate.

The 2021 Estimates for ACT Transport (TCCS) were held before the Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services on the 4 March 2021. The significance of FOI 21-023 is that it provides more detail information than the Transcript Of Evidence from the 2021 Estimates. The committee process is a verbal one. This is a subtle but important difference. The information serve as a basis for inquires.

The estimates process

Outside the ACT Legislative Assembly, few would be aware of the budget process.

Overview of budget process

  1. Community consultation
  2. Budget formulation
  3. Budget presented to the Assembly
  4. Estimates inquiries
  5. Debate of the budget
  6. Passage of the budget
  7. Review process

The standing committees are part of the “estimates” process.

After the budget is presented, it is sent to the Assembly’s committees who then inquire into and scrutinise the government’s proposed spending. Committees examine sections of the budget relevant to their subject areas, while the Public Accounts Committee examines the budget as a whole.

Committees hold public hearings where members are able to question ministers and senior officials from government directorates and agencies about proposed spending contained in the budget.

The estimates process also provides an opportunity for members, particularly from the opposition and crossbench, to scrutinise the performance of the government and its directorates.

Each committee writes report at the end of its inquiry making recommendations to government.

W Manager, ‘The budget process’, Legislative Assembly for the ACT, 2020, <https://www.parliament.act.gov.au/visit-and-learn/resources/factsheets/the-budget-process> [accessed 23 August 2021].

Things worth knowing

Often asking a question is simply knowing what to ask about. The internal workings of the transport directorate are not clear to an outsider. The processes themselves are not what is usually discussed, but rather the projects and the outcomes. However, to understand what is going on, the processes themselves are important too.

The following things are interesting and worth further investigation.

Lists kept by ACT Transport

ACT Transport keeps many lists that are updated and form the basis of the workflow.

  • Community Path Infill Priority list: “The ACT Government has embarked on a program to progressively upgrade and enhance the local suburban community path network on a prioritised basis.”
  • ACT Strategic Cycling Network plan: outlines “the priority improvement corridors, connections to the proposed surrounding network and its value within the network;”
  • Strategic Asset Management Plan (SAMP): for the purpose of proactive asset planning forecast path upgrade and renewal funding requirements

FOI requests

These lists could be made available through FOI.

  1. Community Path Infill Priority list (read more)
  2. Strategic Asset Management Plan (SAMP): The community path inspection program was expected to be completed by 30 June 2021
  3. ACT Strategic Cycling Network plan (read more)

Footpath maintenance, prioritisation and upgrades

The notes prepared by TCCS for the 2021 Estimates before the Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, 4 March 2021. The following is an extract from the notes prepared for the witness was Shelly Fraser, Executive Director, Transport Canberra and City Services (dated 24/02/2021).

Question time brief

ISSUE: Footpath maintenance, prioritisation and upgrades

Talking Points

• Roads ACT manage approximately 3,177 kilometres of community paths (foot and cycle paths).

• There are over 550 community path requests on the Community Path Infill Priority list.

• The ACT Government has embarked on a program to progressively upgrade and enhance the local suburban community path network on a prioritised basis, to fulfil the government policies to encourage active travel, reduce carbon emissions and improve health in the community.

• A primary goal of the ongoing investment in Active Travel is to encourage people to walk and cycle more often by identifying and completing missing links in the strategic walking and cycling network and upgrading facilities where usage is higher.

• Requests to build missing links or to upgrade existing paths are received by TCCS from members of the public. TCCS use a Warrant System to confirm the need for, and priorities of all requests.

• The Warrant System assesses whether a safe path can be provided for all path users. Safety, real and perceived, is always identified as a major barrier to active travel. If the safety criterion is met, four assessment criteria are applied to prioritise the requests:

o Strategic – how the request completes the routes identified in the ACT Strategic Cycling Network plan or Town/Group Centre Master plans which outline the priority improvement corridors, connections to the proposed surrounding network and its value within the network;
o Community– proximity to community trip generators and attractors within residential areas, such as schools, shops, facilities, businesses and parks etc;
o Public Transport – proximity to relevant public transport facilities to increase the possibilities of multi-modal trips; and
o Demand – presence of desired lines or expected demand for a path, i.e. more compact developments are more conducive to active transport and public transport.

• Lack of high-quality Active Travel infrastructure degrades the walking and cycling experience and can lead to real and perceived safety hazards for all transport users. This in turn reduces uptake of Active Travel modes and precludes the realisation of its benefits. …

• Investment in walking and cycling infrastructure contributes to several national and ACT government policy directions, including the Healthy Weight Initiative, the ACT Climate Change Strategy, the ACT Planning Strategy and the Active Travel Framework.

The notes prepared by TCCS for the Estimates 2021, Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, ACT Legislative Assembly, 4 March 2021. Source: FOI 21-023 2021 Estimates, TCCS, ACT Government.

Path Maintenance

• Community path upkeep is important to ensure that walking around our suburbs is both easy and safe. Community paths consist of footpaths, off-road cycle and pedestrian mall pavements, and are located across the urban areas of Canberra. …

• Roads ACT has a systematic inspection and repair program for the community path network within the ACT. High volume pedestrian zones are prioritised for planned inspections undertaken by in-house inspectors, such as the city centre, town centres and community facilities.

• In addition to planned inspections, all requests for service received via Access Canberra and Fix My Street are also inspected by Roads ACT. Once reported, an officer will assess any issues at a site as soon as possible.

• In general, if an issue presents an immediate safety hazard, Roads ACT will arrange for repairs to be promptly made safe, generally within ten business days.

• Replacement of damaged sections of path, when not an immediate safety concern, are packaged into larger value scoped works and contracted to local companies to repair. These are typically completed within six to nine months but can take up to 12-18 months depending on priority and volume of requests.

• A key aspect of Roads ACT’s approach is to recognise that asphalt paths are flexible pavement and there is an opportunity for preventative maintenance. Condition data is collected for asphalt paths, analysed and a planned preventative maintenance program developed, similar to the approach taken to develop the road resurfacing program.

• Planned path inspection frequency:

o Roads ACT has a systematic inspection and repair program for the community path network within the ACT. Suburbs are selected for this program based on the likely condition of their paths (e.g. due to age and trees) and budget.
o Currently 32 suburbs are inspected on a proactive basis under this program. High volume pedestrian areas are prioritised for a higher frequency of planned inspections undertaken by in-house inspectors, such as the city centre, town centres and community facilities.
o Dedicated cycle paths are usually inspected every three years. To date this program has focused on finding and reporting defects, such as trip hazards or potholes.
o City Presentation field staff will clean paths where reported through Access Canberra or Fix My Street.

• The COVID-19, Jobs for Canberrans (JFC) program created four new temporary positions for path inspector roles for TCCS. These temporary inspectors are working closely with the existing Roads ACT inspectors to undertake condition audits and defect assessments of the full path network across Canberra. These temporary functions will assist to capture the asset condition data that will improve Roads ACT’s proactive asset planning such as the ability to forecast path upgrade and renewal funding requirements through the Strategic Asset Management Plan (SAMP). As of 23 February 2021, the team has inspected 629km of the 3,177km network. The program is expected to be completed by 30 June 2021 when JFC funding ceases.

• In parallel with the inspection program, Roads ACT is updating asset management plans for the community path network. This will ensure Roads ACT is prepared when the large quantity of data foreseen under the current inspection program is received.

The notes prepared by TCCS for the Estimates 2021, Standing Committee On Planning, Transport And City Services, ACT Legislative Assembly, 4 March 2021. Source: FOI 21-023 2021 Estimates, TCCS, ACT Government.

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