Redefining the intervention level for upgrading unsealed roads to sealed roads in Rural NSW, main focus, Parkes Shire Council

Cowling, Joel (2019) Redefining the intervention level for upgrading unsealed roads to sealed roads in Rural NSW, main focus, Parkes Shire Council. [USQ Project]


Rural Councils in NSW face a notable problem in relation to their large sealed and unsealed road networks. With less money to spend and an ageing road network, Councils need to look at alternate ways to maintain road pavements by prolonging the life of existing pavements. One way to do this is with emerging technology in the civil construction industry, these advances are significant and can reduce time, resources, and most importantly cost.

This paper analyses current construction techniques, with a whole of life approach and a focus on improvements using emerging technologies to more efficiently produce assets with longer design life. This was detailed through the comparison of traditional construction techniques and road reclaimer/rehabilitation techniques, to change a road from an unsealed LOS to a sealed LOS. It has demonstrated that a change in approach would save on annual maintenance costs and subsequently, increase the asset life of pavements resulting in ongoing project cost savings.

A CBA tool was created to assist the road manager, it provides a long-term view for an entire road project by comparing the unsealed and upgrade scenario life cycle cost against each other, this allows the full impact of the upgrade to be seen visually in the form of a graph, which will allows the road manager the ability to make an informed decision. Research suggest that Councils often make the decision to upgrade a road to a sealed road standard based on limited information, often the cost comparison is conducted over a single year of capital and maintenance expenses as opposed to a full life cycle costing analysis.

In total 5 (five) sites were selected, all with varying parameters to see if it was possible that an upgrade to a sealed standard would be economically viable when analysing the life cycle of the project. The testing of the projects was undertaken by means of a CBA which compared a sealed road upgrade to an unsealed road condition for each site. Three (3) of the projects tested all had BCR ratios above 1, these results were seen for multiple discount rates demonstrating that all three (3) projects should be upgraded to a sealed standard due to the benefits of the project outweighing the cost of the project. 2 (two) of the selected sites that were tested had a BCR ratio of less than 1, these projects were not feasible, it was recommended that these projects are not upgraded to a sealed standard.

To correct the common misperception surrounding roads being upgraded to a sealed standard a full assessment should be undertaken on each shires network, this would identify a large number of sealed roads that should be reduced to an unsealed road and a large number of unsealed roads that need to be placed on an upgrade program. By following this simple practice, it will allow for money to be spent on projects that need upgrading as opposed to ad hoc.

This projects findings demonstrate the need for Council to investigate their current networks and make decisions based on lifecycle costing as opposed to costings over a single year, this has the potential to save many Councils a substantial amount of money.

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Item Type: USQ Project
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Civil Engineering and Surveying (1 Jul 2013 - 31 Dec 2021)
Supervisors: Thorpe, David
Qualification: Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) (Civil)
Date Deposited: 18 Aug 2021 03:56
Last Modified: 26 Jun 2023 22:21

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