THE Federal government's $500 million boost for local government road and community projects, $73 million of which is available to Western Australia, will provide a welcome injection of funds to WA's ailing rural road network, according to David Fyfe, the president of the Livestock and Rural Transport Association of Western Australia (LRTAWA).
Mr Fyfe said that as the economy emerges from the COVID-19 restrictions "it is more important than ever to ensure our road network supports productivity and facilitates the road transport industry in using the most efficient and safe combinations available".
He said transporters make large investments in state-of-the-art equipment with the most up-to-date safety innovations on the market but they are unable to capitalise on their investment because access decisions frequently ignore the advantages of these inbuilt design features.
"Main Roads and local governments cite inadequate road infrastructure as the reason for denying access and it becomes an immoveable barrier to efficiency because modifications to bring a section of road up to scratch are not prioritised," Mr Fyfe said.
"We have sections of the rural freight network where permit restrictions prevent transporters from using the most efficient vehicle.
"Often, we can safely get the job done in one vehicle movement but because of these restrictions we have to de-couple and ferry freight to its destination in two to three movements or a longer route must be taken.
"A good example of this inefficiency is a four kilometre break in the road network on Treeton Road in Cowaramup that prevents 27.5m vehicles travelling between the Semini Feedlots and Western Meat Packers processing facility.
"Because of this gap in the network heavy vehicles must travel an additional 60 kilometres.
"We now have a chance to overcome some of these types of obstacles."
Mr Fyfe has called on rural local governments to work with the transport industry to identify areas that will remove the barriers to efficiency and contribute to greater connectivity along freight routes.
"Road construction has a big impact on local economies if local businesses and employees are used," he said.
"The timing is right to make sure local communities benefit from projects that will not only provide immediate local economic stimulus but will deliver an ongoing return to ratepayers through more efficient freight.
"It is also pleasing to note that the funding announcement highlighted heavy vehicle rest areas as projects worthy of attention.
"Our association has been calling for additional investment in safety bays for heavy vehicle drivers for more than 15 years and despite the lip service given by Main Roads and the Road Safety Commission, there has been no major improvement in facilities.
"It would be nice to think that some of this money will find its way to improving facilities in regional locations that do not get the attention they should."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the Federal government's delivery of a $1.8 billion boost for road and community projects through local governments across Australia last week.
He said the funding boost "will help councils accelerate priority projects that will employ locally and support local business and also stimulating our economy".
"These projects will cut travel times, make our communities safer and upgrade the facilities we all enjoy while also getting more people into jobs," Mr Morrison said.
"We know this is going to be vital support, particularly for councils that have faced the combined impacts of drought, bushfires and now COVID-19."
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the projects could include constructing or improving bridges and tunnels, street lighting and heavy vehicle facilities such as rest areas.
"Providing support for social infrastructure projects such as new or upgraded bicycle and walking paths, community facilities, picnic shelters and barbeque facilities at parks, will help communities, especially those in regional and remote areas, stay connected," Mr McCormack said.