Many people don't consider the design of the roads they drive upon, but getting roads right is important, especially in Australia where populations are separated by vast distances. It is the road design engineer who ensures that Australian roads are suitable, safe and sustainable.
You will be able to see the evolution of roads by comparing those within older towns and cities to those on new developments. Some aspects of roads remain similar throughout the years, such as drainage and road markings. However, the design of Australian transport infrastructure has to remain fluid, as the way people move around changes as a result of economic, environmental and political issues.
Everyone wants to save money, especially when many countries in the world are suffering a recession. This means that modes of transport will change as people find cheaper and more efficient ways of travelling. These changes have resulted in an influx of smaller cars, requiring less fuel and cheaper insurance, and an increase in cycling on roads.
New and old roads need to reflect this change towards the more economical modes of transport. Older roads may be widened to allow for cycle lanes and new roads will need to be designed with cyclist safety in mind, including designated lanes and increased visibility.
The local wildlife and fauna can have a direct impact on the design of a road. It may be that the verges are left to grow to help attract insects into the area. Planted areas can also be used as speed management: by putting raised flower beds down the centre of the road, a lower speed limit can be enforced.
A new road may be developed close to wildlife populations which may stray into the road and precautions should be taken to make road users aware of this problem. Additionally, preventative measures should be put in place to stop the animals being run over. Electronic devices fitted to cars to deter kangaroos have been proven ineffective, so while drivers are urged to slow down it is up to the design engineer to be innovative in stopping these collisions.
There is also pressure now to make everything as sustainable as possible, including the road network. The engineers designing the roads must put thought into the materials used, where these will be sourced and how the road will be maintained to ensure that it is economically viable and environmentally friendly.
Australia's government is constantly under pressure to increase road safety, while tackling the environmental and economic issues faced by Australia. The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development is responsible for the funding of road infrastructure and campaigns of road safety.
The government can heavily impact the design of new roads and the updating of old ones, as politicians listen to and argue for their constituency. This often results in a mixed view of how a road should be designed, and this can be one of the greatest disadvantages to working as a road design engineer.
With over $50 billion being spent on Australia's road network, the engineers designing roads are under a lot of pressure to make Australian transport infrastructure safe for its users and the surrounding wildlife, as well as appeasing the government and local residents. Next time you go for a drive, consider the engineer who designed the road you're on. For more information about the engineering that goes into this and other important building projects, contact a company like Calbah Industries.