A study commissioned by the Australian Local Government Association says local councils around the country are underfunding the maintenance of their roads.

The research suggests councils are struggling to foot the bill to fix roads, crossings and bridges due to the constant expansion of other services.

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) says the report is a call for federal and state governments to step in and help fix the failing transport infrastructure, which slows productivity and puts lives at direct, daily risk.

ALGA estimates funding for local roads is falling short by about $1.2 billion per year.

Councils have the capacity to fix less than 10 per cent of the roads in disrepair, the study's author, Jeff Roorda says.

“Councils are limited by how much they can do because ... the community has a limit on how much it can pay in rates, rates, fees and charges and especially councils that have a lot of infrastructure for smaller populations,” he said.

“So councils have got to work with the state and federal [governments] and say, how do we best target investment in infrastructure in the future?”

Mr Roorda says local economies will start wearing the cost for the poor level of maintenance, if infrastructure funds do not come from a higher rung of government.

“As the freight gets bigger, we get bigger trucks but the roads were never built for that and if you start mixing that with tourist traffic you need to carefully target investment in maintaining and upgrading roads as well as maintaining, renewing those that have got to the end of their lives,” he said.

ALGA’s National State of the Assets Report 2013 contains more information on the standard of community roads and related infrastructure, and is accessible here.