There are around 10,000 “road openings” (the technical term for roadworks) a year in Singapore – up from around 8000 a decade ago. For a small country with only about 3500 kilometres of roads, that appears to be an inordinately high number.
Road openings include those for gas, electrical, telecommunication, television/Internet cable, drainage and sewage works, as well as works related to repair and maintenance of road surfaces, pathways and infrastructure like traffic signs. They exclude tree pruning exercises and road diversions arising from MRT or new-road projects.
The number of road openings seems to be higher in recent years. Perhaps it has to do with works taking longer to complete than before. In fact, it is not uncommon to find roadwork signs with no expected dates of completion these days. In the not-too-distant past, all roadworks displayed their expected dates of completion.
As roadworks impact traffic speed and a road’s traffic capacity, it is only right that agencies carrying out the works pay a congestion price.
They may argue that they are delivering a necessary service to the public, but the same goes for goods vehicles and public buses, yet both are subject to electronic road pricing (ERP) charges.
The charges to be levied on the relevant agencies should be based on criteria such as prevailing ERP rates, or if ERP is not applicable, average road tax paid by the number of vehicles using the particualr stretch of road they are working on.
This will reflect the economic cost of roadworks, and encourage agencies to expedite their jobs. The money collected “from” roadworks can be used as road tax rebates for motorists.