Millions for roads in economic recovery plan

Commonwealth to spend $890 million on fixing dangerous roads as part of economic fightback plan

Millions for roads in economic recovery plan
Almost $1b for roads in economic recovery plan

The Federal Government will spend hundreds of millions of dollars fixing dangerous roads as part of its economic stimulus package announced today.

Another 350 projects will be added to the Federal Government’s Black Spot road safety program, part of a $890 million package to improve community infrastructure.

About $150 million will be spent on "critical maintenance works" on the national highway network.

The plan also includes the installation of around 200 new boom gates at high-risk level crossings.

It is a win for the trucking lobby, which argued the Government should invest in road maintenance for more immediate economic benefits rather than new infrastructure projects with longer lead times.

Treasurer Wayne Swan says the National Building and Jobs Plan, worth some $42 billion in total, will boost economic growth and protect jobs amidst a devastating downturn globally.

The Government will allocate an additional $30 million in 2008-09 and $60 million in 2009-10 to extend the coverage of the Black Spot program, on top of a commitment in December to double funding for 2008-09 from $50 million to $110 million.

A portion of the additional funding will be allocated to black spots on Australia’s national highways, which until now were excluded from the package.

The Government claims every $1 spent on the Black Spot program saves the community $14 in reduced road trauma costs.

Rail crossings receive $50 million in 2008-09 and $100 million in 2009-10 to speed up the installation of around 200 sets of boom gates and other safety measures. Submissions will be sought from the states and territories to identify priority crossings.

The $150 million for the national highway network is conditional on states and territories agreeing to the Federal Government's $22.3 billion Nation Building Program for 2009-10 to 2013-14. The Government says this funding will allow more projects to be undertaken that address safety risks, while promoting the more efficient use of the network by allowing higher speed limits in some cases or higher weight loadings.

The total economic stimulus package is expected to boost growth by around 0.5 of a percent of gross domestic product this financial year, Swan says, and between 0.75 and 1 percent in 2009-10.

The Government estimates the plan will support up to 90,000 jobs over the next two years.

The plan includes upgrades to school infrastructure, new social housing projects, and tax breaks for low and middle income households.

Small business and other general businesses buying eligible assets will benefit from a 30 cent in the dollar investment tax break.

"The global commodity boom which has provided significant stimulus to the Australian economy over recent years has come to an end," the Prime Minister and Treasurer say in a statement.

"No country will escape the impact of the global recession which is causing falls in growth, job losses and budget deficits right across the world.

"The weight of the global recession is now bearing down on the Australian economy. Economic growth is slowing and employment will weaken."

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