A Portadown councillor has called on the Infrastructure Minister, to tackle the “pothole pandemic” plaguing the borough.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Councillor Lavelle McIlwrath said Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon MLA, needs to “serious funding” to repair local roads before serious accidents happen.
“We not only have a Covid pandemic in our midst but we now have a pothole pandemic,” said Councillor McIlwrath.
“Our rural roads in particular are in a shocking state and are getting worse year on year.
“The last three or four years have seen a reduction in maintenance work carried out and now is the time that some serious funding is made available by Minister Mallon and her department in order to address the major problems that are occurring day and daily.”
Having raised the issue with representatives of the Department for Infrastructure in January, Councillor McIlwrath said many constituents are now contacting him with their concerns.
“Our minor roads are bad and I also have concerns about about our main roads, where vehicles can legally travel at 60mph, there are some shockingly dangerous potholes appearing on these roads,” he said.
“If some of these are not repaired as a matter of urgency then the chances of a road traffic collision occurring are increased dramatically.
“What I don’t understand is the Department for Infrastructure seem quite prepared to pay out on claim after claim for damaged tyres, wheel rims and damaged suspension but don’t seem to have the wherewithal to repair the actual root cause of all the claims.
“I have written to Minster Mallon calling for her to intervene with regard to the state of our rural roads and in particular dedicate a significant budget to ongoing road maintenance in the area.”
In response to these comments, a DfI spokesperson said all roads are inspected on a regular basis and said the Minister would like to do more but is “constrained by the level of funding available”.
“All roads in the Armagh area and across Northern Ireland are inspected on a regular basis with all defects which meet the Department’s current intervention criteria being recorded and prioritised for repair,” said the spokesperson.
“In the 20/21 financial year the Department allocated £28.2m of funding to its Southern Division which includes the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council area.
“This funding covered a range of activities including resurfacing and patching repairs on the road network.
“Minister Mallon has made clear that she wants to do more to improve the condition of the road network for all road users. However, she is constrained by the level of funding available and continues to stress to Executive colleagues the need for investment in roads infrastructure to help address regional imbalance, help communities and improve safety.”
The spokesperson said the Minister has bid for further funding for the 2021-22 financial year and once confirmed, a list of roads set for repair in the next financial year will be made public.
“The Minister has bid for £120m for capital structural maintenance as part of the 2021- 22 budget process,” said the spokesperson.
“However, it is recognised that, while there is a negative correlation between funding and numbers of claims, even if budgets were significantly increased it is not possible to eliminate emergence of potholes and consequential submission of claims.
“A provisional list of schemes in County Armagh is being developed across all programmes for delivery during the 2021-22 financial year.
“However, these programmes cannot be finalised until the Department’s 2021-22 budget allocations are confirmed.
“Once finalised, programmes will be included in the spring council reports which will, in due course, be presented to Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon District Council before being made publicly available online.”
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