Engineers Australia has handed down its 2010 NSW Infrastructure Report Card this week, and while its electricity, phone, water and gas services all managed a mark of 'adequate', the state's road network could manage only an 'average to poor'.
In grading terms, the C- given to the New South Wales' infrastructure could have been worse but for the B- mark given to the national roads that pass through the state. The state-operated freeways, highways and local roads each scraped through with a somewhat deplorable D+.
“The State’s infrastructure is under stress in many areas and needs major changes to above its generally average to poor condition,” Engineers Australia Chair Ian Pedersen said in the report.
Mr Pedersen pointed to a desperate need for strategic planning and integration, along with massively increased investment in infrastructure - around $618 million beyond what the state has already budgeted for.
“The gap is widening between what funds are required to maintain and improve local roads, and what is actually being spent,” the report says.
“Funding is required to close the gap, with specific attention given to renewing and upgrading the more than 10,000 bridges on local roads, and facilitating the use of high productivity vehicles.”
The report says a cash injection is not the only fix however. The state's rapidly growing population means that it has become near impossible to develop the road network at a pace that would keep up with the increasing traffic.
Instead, the Engineers Australia report card recommends investigating a road usage charge - similar to those in effect in some regions of Europe - in an effort to push motorists toward public transport and freight companies towards rail transport.
It is predicted that by 2016, there will be regular cases of gridlock on the M4, M5 and Eastern Distributor. Similarly, demand for the M2, M4 and M5 East is expected to exceed capacity.
The report also recommends changes to existing infrastructure, linking the state's current road networks and better-managing roadworks so that they do not cause unnecessary traffic delays.
Speaking with The Australian, NSW Premier Kristina Keneally denied the state was performing poorly, but said that the government will study the report.