A further boost to the Council’s investment in roads is going to Council on Thursday 24 June for member approval.
If agreed, this will take the overall investment in Highland roads over a 7-year period to unprecedented levels.
The Highland Council has the longest local road network of any council in Scotland and is responsible for nearly 7,000km roads; 1,700km footways, 2,180 bridges and culverts and 100 car parks.
The road infrastructure features as a key priority for Highland communities in their feedback, and therefore a key priority for the Council.
The existing roads maintenance budget of £4.5M was increased by £2.7M to £7.2M per annum in March 2016.
The Council then invested an additional £1.3 million revenue for road maintenance in 20/21 on top of the £7.2M revenue budget, and a further £20 million of capital funding equating to £17.2M per annum for next 2 years.
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic and a long winter has delayed road recovery work over the past year, however investments in new plant and machinery are enabling repairs to get underway across the Highlands quickly and efficiently.
A report to Council, on 24 June, proposes an additional investment of £5.5M during 2021/22 in phase 2 of the Council’s Health and Prosperity Plan and a further £3.5M in a third phase in the autumn.
If agreed, this will mean in 2021/22 total investment in roads will be over £20M per annum, this and next year, for the two-year period.
Proposals also include investing £1.6M in Phase 2 of the Corran Ferry design work which is essential in order to make the case for investment in replacement vessels, slipways and supporting infrastructure to ensure service sustainability until such time that a longer-term fixed link solution is built.
The second stage, which is the design of new slipway, infrastructure and parking provision, will be managed by the Council’s Project Design Unit, using external expertise where required, and will be procured through the normal framework arrangements in place.
The Council’s investment Visitor Management also includes significant investment in improvements to local infrastructure at tourist hotspots, including car parking and measures to ease congestion and traffic flow for both visitors and local communities.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Margaret Davidson said:
“Our communities are telling us we have further need of investment in our roads.
“The report going to Council demonstrates the immense investment we have already put into improving our road infrastructure and we are responding with further additional spending over the next 2 years.
“We then need to look to a sustainable future for our roads.”
Chair of Economy and Infrastructure, Cllr Trish Robertson added:
“This significant additional funding for roads of £9M over the next two investment phases (£5.5m Phase 2; £3.5m Phase 3) will further support the key priority of the Council to maintain the current funding for our local road network and continue to make the case for additional resources in recognition of the unique challenges and costs of maintaining the largest road network in the UK.
“The additional funding will be used to supplement the activities outlined in the report, as well as addressing some of the issues around modernising the Council’s plant and equipment and ensuring staffing resource to support the spend.
“It is proposed to allocate the funding to add to the rolling programme of road improvements and repairs, with new schemes to be identified at Area Committee level; to increase the maintenance works required to the Council’s structures such as bridges, culverts, retaining walls and including cattle grids; strip widening to address verge damage caused vehicle over-run; and investment in additional passing places and lengthening of existing passing places, in order to ease congestion and improve road safety.
“There is also an allowance for Roads Plant and Machinery to improve the delivery of road pot hole repairs by increasing the number of first-time permanent repairs; investment in plant and machinery to undertake verge side maintenance in the spring/summer and removal of vegetation from gullies, verges and drainage ditches in the autumn/winter; and upgrading and replacement of plant and equipment to reflect local area needs.”
Depute Leader, Cllr Alasdair Christie said:
“Our Health and Prosperity Plan has already seen enormous benefits from the first phase of funding.
“Tangible improvements can already be seen in the Highland wide roads repairs programme underway and improvements around tourism hotspots.
“The next phase of our Health and Prosperity Plan would see a further £10M invested in roads and infrastructure, environment and climate change, communities, amenities and in our people and assets.”
The Council is highlighting some of its roads maintenance works that have recently been completed and these are being featured by local media; on the Council’s website www.highland.gov.uk/highlandroadsrecovery and on social media with the hashtag #HighlandRoadsRecovery.