THE road linking Bendigo with Kamarooka and Tennyson is so rough, retiree Donnette Field experiences physical pain.
Mrs Field has been travelling along Bendigo-Tennyson Road for almost 50 years. It is only in the past five or six years that she says the road's condition has become particularly bad.
"It causes pain in the back," she says.
"It's very, very rough on the car as well."
Mrs Field is one of many central Victorians who believe something needs to be done about the roads upon which they rely.
It comes after the Australian Automobile Association said Australia had "suffered a lost decade in the management of road safety", and called for a new federal approach.
Its recent road safety report stated Australia had a "serious infrastructure backlog" and "too many existing roads were not safe enough".
The report also said some new roads were "unsafe".
The Bendigo Advertiser subsequently invited social media followers to nominate roads of concern.
Routes readers have sought to highlight range from intersections in fast-growing Bendigo suburbs to roads in the region's farming communities.
Common to all is a concern for the safety of road users.
It comes as authorities grapple with ways to reduce road trauma, during a year when Victoria's provisional road toll stands at 220 lives.
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Governments at all levels are spending millions on improving and maintaining the thousands of kilometres of roads they oversee.
But progress can be slow, with one Campaspe farmer resorting to fixing unsealed roads needed for their business themselves.
The farmer, who requested to remain anonymous, said they had contacted council about the roads a number of times.
But they were left with the impression the council no longer accepted responsibility for maintaining those roads.
"We get no satisfaction from the shire at all so I don't have a choice," the farmer said.
They had taken it upon themselves to ensure the roads were graded.
The farmer said the roads were essential to their business and could not remain in a state that made them inaccessible to trucks and large machinery.
"This last year they've been four-wheel-drive or tractor only," they said.
"I can't run a business like that - that's unacceptable."
They were aware of other roads projects in their area, which they welcomed.
"I wouldn't like to blame council because I know everyone's tight on finances," the farmer said.
"There's not enough money to go around."
They said some level of government needed to be investing more money into roads in the bush.
"Even on bitumen roads that are VicRoads controlled, they get poorly patched up all the time," the farmer said.
"It's like putting a Band-Aid on a main vein that has been cut."
Map: Central Victorian Black Spot funding
Frustration at quick fixes was evident as Bendigo Advertiser readers highlighted central Victorian roads they believed were in need of work.
One reader called for more thorough works on a stretch of Axedale-Goornong Road after noting it had been patched up a number of times.
"It blows out, they patch it, then it blows out, then they patch it, then it blows out. How about re-stabilising the 200-metre patch and be done with it," they wrote on social media.
Others expressed frustration at apparent inaction.
"Does someone have to die here before something is done?" a social media user wrote about the intersection of the Calder Highway and the Calder Alternative Highway in Marong.
Another said Howard Street was "falling apart" near Epsom Primary School and needed to be widened for safer school parking.
Australian automobile associations have been lobbying governments for action on roads.
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In its recent road safety report, the Australian Automobile Association urged the federal government to link federal infrastructure funding to road safety outcomes and to provide incentives for states and territories to fulfil National Road Safety Strategy reporting.
Other roads recommendations included reforming design standards to ensure minimum safety outcomes were achieved.
The RACV identified a "backlog of maintenance and rehabilitation of road surfaces and roadside drains across regional Victoria" in 2018, as part of its Regional Growing Pains report.
"A sustained increase in funding is needed to repair road surfaces for safe travel at highway speeds, and to replace or repair rough surfaces, seal road shoulders and fix poor drainage," it said.
Suggested roads projects specific to Greater Bendigo included safety improvements on the Calder Highway / Freeway between Melbourne and Mildura and shoulder sealing and intersection configuration upgrades for larger trucks along the North-Western truck route from Marong to Epsom.
RACV roads and traffic senior engineer Emily McLean said a lot of the issues identified in the Regional Growing Pains report had been longstanding.
She said the focus had traditionally been on the connections between regional centres and Melbourne.
There needed to be greater focus on connections between centres, Mrs McLean said.
"As regions grow there needs to be greater focus on public transport and cycling, too," she said.
RACV 2018 Growing Pains report
Roads are among the biggest areas of expenditure for local governments.
The City of Greater Bendigo spent $6.8 million on routine road maintenance in the past financial year and made a $12 million investment in capital road works.
It also received funding from both state and federal governments.
"We would always be looking for more," Bendigo mayor Margaret O'Rourke said.
A total of 3128 kilometres of road fall within the local government area - 165 kilometres more than in 2009.
Greater Bendigo engineering manager Brett Martini said federal funding was a key source of ongoing load road income for the city.
More than $3.3 million flowed from the financial assistance grant in 2018-19, while the Roads to Recovery Program yielded $1.57 million.
"The city has also been very successful in gaining specific project funds from the federal government's Black Spot program over many years," Mr Martini said.
Projects in Greater Bendigo have received about 68 per cent of Black Spot funding in central Victoria since 2009, according to Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development data.
Campaspe, Macedon Ranges, Mount Alexander and Buloke were the only other shires where projects were funded during those 10 years.
Mount Alexander and Buloke shires each had one project funded.
A total of 77 Black Spot projects valued at more than $28-million have been funded in central Victoria since 2009. The region has received more support through the program this financial year than any other.
There's a $6.9 million difference between central Victorian Black Spot funding now and in 2009-10.
"The Australian government takes road safety seriously," a spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development said.
They said this year's federal budget increased the Australian government's commitment to road safety measures to more than $3.1 billion a year until 2022-23.
"This includes an additional $2.2 billion to 2030 for the Local and State Government Road Safety Package," they said.
They said Black Spot projects focused on locations where the "highest benefits" could be achieved.
The program primarily targets areas with a history of crashes. A proactive element has been introduced, enabling funding to be allocated to sites road traffic engineers have recommended for remedial work.
"Works eligible for funding may include safety-related construction, alteration or remedial treatment," the department spokesperson said.
"Jurisdictions may recommend up to 30 per cent of funding each year for Black Spot projects nominated on the basis that the site is likely to contribute to serious motor vehicle crashes involving death or personal injury.
"Panels may recommend more than 30 per cent 'proactive' projects under the program for consideration by the minister depending on nominations received for a particular program year."
Infographic: Black Spot roads funding in central Victoria from 2009
Low traffic volumes meant Loddon Shire Council roads were not eligible for Black Spot funding, the local government's operations director said.
Steven Phillips said it would be fantastic to have sufficient funds to enable a proactive approach.
Roughly 4718 kilometres of roads fall within the shire, of which about 2551 kilometres are unsealed.
Mr Phillips said the council was concerned about the condition of its main road network, most of which related to the Regional Roads Victoria network.
"These roads are falling behind in their maintenance and RRV needs to be funded adequately by the state government," he said.
"If there road network is allowed to decline anymore it will take decades to bring it back up to the stranded that the community expects it be at."
Roads project will constitute more than 20 per cent of the council's total expenditure this financial year.
Loddon Shire Council has budgeted Local Road Routine Maintenance budget $6.1 million for routine local road maintenance and $5.9 million for capital road works.
Key projects include gravel road re-sheeting, and improvements on Bridgewater-Raywood Road and Echuca-Serpentine Road.
But the council wants more for the roads in its area, like road safety improvements to the intersection of the Wimmera Highway and Bridgewater-Maldon Road and pedestrian crossings in Wedderburn and Boort.
"The standard of the RRV network appears to have been on the decline over the past few years," Mr Phillips said.
He said roadside grass mowing along RRV roads also needed to be more frequent to improve visibility and fire safety.
"Once per year is not enough," Mr Phillips said.
Campaspe Shire Council mayor Adrian Weston said the local government allocated $40.42 from every $100 to the maintenance of roads, bridges, footpaths and drains.
The area contains about 4157 kilometres of roads.
"There have only been minor changes in the length of roads in the past 10 years," Cr Weston said.
The council allocated $13.1-million to its road network, and $3-million to bridges in its capital works program this financial year.
"Campaspe Shire Council actively seeks federal or state government funding to support upgrades and improvements to its road network," Cr Weston said.
"With rate capping in place, external grant funds are even more important to ensure the network is maintained.
"In developing the annual budget, council prioritises road projects in line with funding available. Any grant funds received enables additional projects to be done."
About 3886 kilometres of the state's arterial road network falls within RRV's northern region, which spans most of central Victoria.
Map: Central Vic Roads listed for action
RRV northern regional director Brian Westley said major projects such as the Ravenswood Interchange, Napier Street Upgrade and the Northern Highway overtaking lanes were all making the roads safer and easier for drivers.
"On top of this, safety barriers, rumble strips, and better signage are being installed on key roads across the region to significantly reduce the risk of head-on and run off road crashes - the biggest cause of deadly crashes in regional Victoria," Mr Westley said.
"As the community grows, mode shift to public and active transport is also a priority so we're focusing on ways to improve infrastructure whether you're driving, catching public transport, walking or cycling."
The state government is understood to be investing more than $57.2-million in rebuilding, resurfacing and repairing almost 268 kilometres of roads across north central Victoria, including stretches of the Calder Freeway, McCrae Street in Bendigo, Bendigo-Maldon Road and Elmore-Raywood Road.
"Mistakes happen on our roads but they shouldn't be deadly - which is why we're working with all levels of government including state, federal and local councils to increase safety for our communities," Mr Westley said.
Victorian roads and road safety minister, Jaala Pulford said the government was undertaking a massive investment in boosting road safety across Victoria, but everyone had a role to play.
"That means sticking to the speed limit, putting on your seatbelt and ignoring your phone to make sure you, your friends and your family get home safely," Ms Pulford said.
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers Bendigo principal lawyer Danny Frigerio encouraged central Victorians to help identify priorities for Victoria's new road safety strategy.
"Anything that might reduce the number of deaths and injuries on our roads is worth sharing," he said.
Mr Frigerio said he saw firsthand the devastating impacts of road trauma as a specialist in personal injury law. Road surfaces were a factor in road trauma injuries sustained by a portion of his clients.
Narrow roads with no sealed edges were among the most common road surface-related scenarios he encountered, particularly where two vehicles were travelling in opposite directions.
To provide suggestions for the new road safety strategy visit: engage.vic.gov.au/TZ2020.
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