Treasury boffin says roads have an end

The Federal Government says building new roads to ease congestion may no longer be feasible in major cities

February 23, 2010

The Federal Government says building new roads to ease congestion may no longer be feasible in major cities.

Addressing the Urban Transport World conference in Sydney this morning, the Executive Director for Markets Group at the Federal Treasury, Jim Murphy, told delegates an ever-increasing freight task is putting more pressure on the nation’s road system than ever before.

However, he says future decisions on whether or not to build new roads to deal with increased capacity will no longer be made as lightly as in the past.

"A growing level in demand [for road infrastructure] is likely to result from population growth, a demographic change and greater urbanisation," Murphy says.

"Easing congestion on the road system is important in order to address Australia's growing freight task.

"As an export-orientated economy our national freight network and international gateways are critical to the timely movement of goods along our roads, rail and ports."

Murphy says space is running out to build these roads and is often very expensive.

"Acquiring more land for roads, building new bridges and digging new tunnels can be an expensive way to meet out future needs," he says.

"Even where expanding road capacity is affordable there is still the question of how many more roads and traffic is sustainable."

Due to factors like these the Federal Government will be looking harder and will be more selective about where money is spent on new projects, according to Murphy.

This will revolve around identifying if three main criteria have been met by the state governments in their requests for more roads to be built, he adds.

"Transparent long-term plans for growth are needed to support high-quality urban development," Murphy says.

"To support this, the Prime Minister has proposed a development of a national criteria to evaluate the future strategic plans for Australia's major cities.

"Eight criteria were proposed, but three are particularly relevant for the Government and its investment in urban transport infrastructure.

"[These include] whether credible plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have been implemented; whether provision has been made for building and upgrading nationally significant infrastructure like transport corridors; and whether an effective framework for private-sector investment and innovation for urban infrastructure is in place."

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