People often have a raw nerve when it comes to the inconvenience and delays caused by construction or road works. But equally the ‘better angels’ of their nature can be seen to take preeminence when the purpose is carefully explained that such upsets are in fact the pathway to better things. Vexation gives way to a grumbling acquiescence, in turn to mute patience even eventually to a hope that such sacrifices of time may contribute to a better future. The secret is in fully articulating the cause of the disruption and (along with due apologies ) frame such changes in the terms of the benefits it will deliver.
So it is not difficult to imagine the frustration of motorists who having endured months, if not years, of this kind of disruption on the Western Freeway believing the duplication to Beaufort was the ultimate good will find themselves crawling along at 40km/h all over again. VicRoads has made it clear the result on this massive taxpayer funded upgrade is sub-standard, the deterioration unacceptably precipitous and the contractor will wear the costs. Even so motorists will still wonder why they seem to be going through this pain all over again and so soon. Assuming a national highway is built to the specifications to withstand heavy and frequent traffic and noting that the last 12 months have not been unduly wet, the standard motorist, without an engineers inside revelations, is left bewildered and cross.
This in turn will lead motorists to wonder on some bigger question around the vexed issue of road maintenance. VicRoads as an organisation has committed to getting road maintenance right the first time, so that treatments last longer. There is also the declaration the State Government has ramped up the maintenance budget to try and address this widespread deterioration. This no doubt becomes even more acute on the stretched budgets of local councils particulalrly those with wider rural road networks. But the question remains is whether the tax payer (or ratepayer) is getting value for money. There is equally little doubt there are more trucks and they are heavier, so some fill-in for a pot hole will see it smashed into asphalt sludge in a week with the right conditions. Another question is whether this quick fix remediation or even the levels of resurfacing stipulated by shires is not more costly in the long run when they lead to continual repairs even major safety issues.
Time to rethink the why and how not to mention how-much on road maintenance.