Northern Ireland potholed roads cost £1m in damaged car payouts
Compensation for drivers whose vehicles were damaged by potholes over the last five years is approaching £1m, MLAs have been told.
Since 2011 there were a total of around 7,500 claims lodged with Transport NI - with average annual payouts of around £200,000, DUP MLA Alex Easton said.
"We can see from the evidence that failure to do the basic maintenance leads to major problems," the North Down MLA warned.
"Had we had more resources for our maintenance budgets, many of those claims would simply not have happened."
His comments came as MLAs voiced fears of more road deaths and injuries following revelations that the total cost of bringing the province's network up to standard has reached £1bn.
In an Assembly debate parties backed SDLP and Alliance calls for Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard to ensure "a ring-fenced allocation for road maintenance repair".
Mr Easton added: "There has been a problem over several years with not enough resources being set aside for road maintenance.
"That has meant potholes not being repaired, street lights not being repaired, limited weed spraying and grass verges not being cut."
The SDLP's Gerry Mullan said: "As we approach the winter months, people are concerned about the lack of maintenance and the possibility of even more road deaths. The backlog in road maintenance is having severe consequences across each and every constituency."
Kellie Armstrong of Alliance proposed "a costed strategy for road maintenance and repairs" and added: "I hope unfit and unsafe roads will not lead to personal injury or worse for our citizens. Every day, I see roads pitted with potholes. I see the crumbling road edges, the hedges overgrown and the flooding caused by gullies not yet cleared."
Ulster Unionist Jenny Palmer said in the past every effort seemed to have been made to "suffocate" the former Department for Regional Development - now within the Infrastructure remit - of essential funding for road maintenance in "a shameful game of politics".
Sinn Fein Minister Hazzard argued tackling the backlog had been dealt a "serious blow" by the prospect of Brexit.