Action needed on SA country roads

Action needed on SA country roads

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WHILE last year's road toll in SA was the lowest in 15 years, a rising proportion of fatalities have occurred on country roads.

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WHILE last year's road toll in SA was the lowest in 15 years, a rising proportion of fatalities have occurred on country roads.

State government figures showed 75 per cent of the motor vehicle fatalities were on country roads in 2018 - a spike from the five-year average of 57pc between 2013 and 2017.

Transport Minister Stephan Knoll said a national road safety report had identified increased spending on road improvements as a "key driver" in reducing the road toll.

"We accept these recommendations and are getting on with improvements (on regional roads)," he said.

Before last year's state election, the Liberal Party promised to set aside money from the state's mining royalties, dedicated for regional roads. At the September state budget, the government announced $315 million would be allocated to the regional roads and infrastructure fund, made up of 30pc of the state's mining royalties.

Mr Knoll said this "pool" would rise as the state's mining industry grew.

Also promised before the election, and reaffirmed at the state budget, was a commitment to reinstate the 110 kilometre an hour speed limit on eight roads reduced to 100km/hr by the Labor government in 2017.

These are the Browns Well and Ngarkat highways in the Mallee, Riddoch Highway and Clay Wells and Carpenter Rocks roads in the South East, Cleve Road, Andamooka Road and the Goyder Highway in the Mid North.

In the year since the Liberal government was elected none of these roads have had their speed reinstated, nor have they been highlighted as a key project in the budget.

"We continue to say we will put the speed limits back up once the roads have had improvements to allow that," Mr Knoll said.

"Essentially we've got to make sure we have got the money to do these repairs. My preference is to get this done as soon as possible."

Budget funding has been allocated for major projects such as a bypass at Penola, a $90m overpass and road duplication at Port Wakefield and $200m - including federal funds - for the duplication of the Joy Baluch Bridge at Port Augusta.

Mr Knoll said land acquisition had begun at Port Wakefield, while the bridge duplication was expected to begin by the end of the year.

The Horrocks Highway received $2.5m for repairs in 2019, which Mr Knoll says is a "starting point".

RAA road safety spokesman Matthew Vertudaches said limited progress had been made upgrading the worst roads, as identified by the RAA's 2017 risky roads campaign.

“Roads on the RAA list, such as Horrocks Highway, have had some level of investment promised but more needs to be done to make a significant safety improvement,’’ he said.

“There has also been investment in key corridors, such as the Princes and Southern Ports highways, which is welcomed, and RAA will be reviewing these in our upcoming Limestone Coast assessment.’’

Mr Vertudaches said speed limit reductions were not a “long-term fix’’ for rural roads.

“To enhance safety, improvements must be made, such as widening roads, sealing shoulders, installing overtaking lanes and upgrading intersections," he said. “General maintenance is another important factor, with many regional roads in a poor state of repair."

Livestock transporter Rusty Crane, Crane Transport, Naracoorte, spends a lot of time on regional roads and said they have been "let go, with one excuse after another".

"The quality of roads are falling apart, there is no doubt about that," he said.

"Considering the wealth that comes out of this area, with livestock, logs, pine plantations, vintage is going on at the moment, some funding needs to be put back into this area. Of course arterial roads in Adelaide need to be upgraded and have money spent but people have to realise where their food comes from."

He said reducing speeds to 100km/hr could create dangerous situations.

"If you've got a truck that isn't doing 100km/hr, a car has to effectively break the speed limit - to break the law - to overtake," he said.

District Council of Robe mayor and Bray farmer Alison Nunan lives along one of the eight roads to have their speed reduced - Clay Wells Road - and says it is a major transport link in the region.

"It is a major road in district - (it has) forestry, primary production and is the main tourist drive from western Vic," she said. "It is a road that deserves a lot more funding."

Ms Nunan said in parts the road was only six metres wide. With the average B-double, including the frequent logging trucks, being 2.5m wide, she said this left only 1m between vehicles, leading them to move off the road edge, which created further damage.

Fellow Bray farmer Scott McIntyre said, as the major road between Robe and western Vic, it could become as busy as city street during the Christmas period.

Paula Kilgariff, Bray, said something needed to be done for the long-term viability of the region.

"Robe is getting busier and busier, I'd hate to see it in five years' time," she said.

As well as the narrow road, Ms Nunan said overgrown vegetation on the sides of roads could reduce visibility, particularly for vehicles pulling onto the road from properties. She said there had been a number of potentially dangerous "near misses" along the road, as well as reported accidents, and without investment this was likely to increase.

"The worst thing is, we say 'here are the issues' and they use that as an excuse to reduce the speed limit because it's a 'dangerous road', instead of fixing these things," she said. 

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