The Malta Independent 21 February 2019, Thursday

Construction of two new lanes and footpath on Tal-Balal road ‘nearing completion’

Kevin Schembri Orland Sunday, 10 February 2019, 10:30 Last update: about 10 days ago

The construction of the two new lanes and the new footpath on Tal-Balal road is nearing completion, Infrastructure Malta told The Malta Independent.

Infrastructure Malta has given its reasons for the delays in the completion of the Tal-Balal road linking San Gwann and Naxxar in response to questions posed by this newsroom.

Last November, Infrastructure Malta said that efforts were being made to achieve completion of works possibly by the end of 2018. This did not happen and works are still underway.

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This newsroom has asked Infrastructure Malta for the exact original completion deadline for the road project, when it is now expected that the project would be completed and what the reasons for the delays were. While the representative highlighted that works are nearing completion, no exact date was given.

The agency’s representative explained through an email, as well as a subsequent phone call, that bad weather hampered progress over the past months. Another major obstacle, the representative said, was that the road was originally built over infilled disused quarries. “whilst rebuilding the road, the contractors are also carrying out extensive works to reinforce the existing carriageway’s weak foundations. This road link was originally built over a number of disused quarries, which had been infilled with debris and other materials. These inadequate foundation layers were causing sections of the asphalt surface to cave in, increasing safety risks to road users. This infill material was excavated as part of this project and replaced with deep underground foundation structures built with large stone blocks and concrete.”

A number of other reasons were also provided by the agency, such as the laying of cables and other infrastructure and the implementation of the second phase of the project at the same time as the first to avoid works later on.

Infrastructure Malta is upgrading Triq tal-Balal, a major road link between Naxxar, Gharghur, Iklin and San Gwann, to add two new lanes, new footways, safer bus lay bys, pedestrian crossing facilities and cycling-friendly infrastructure.

This investment was planned to be developed in two phases, the agency said. “The ongoing works were scheduled to include the first phase only, to widen the road to three lanes, two southbound, from Naxxar to San Gwann, and a single lane in the opposite direction. Following initial works, most of Triq tal-Balal has been available to road users as a three-lane road for months.”

 “The agency allocated additional resources to implement the second stage of the project as well, including the introduction of a second lane in the northbound direction. Infrastructure Malta also included a new footway along the entire 1.8 kilometre route, to facilitate pedestrian access between Naxxar and San Gwann. The pre-existing road layout did not include any pedestrian infrastructure.

“All works are being carried out whilst keeping the road open in both directions at all times during the day. Over 2,100 road users travel through this road every hour during the morning and afternoon peaks. Additional measures are also being taken to minimise disruptions to the industrial and commercial operations in this area.”

The construction of the two new lanes and the new footpath is nearing completion, the agency said. “Sections of them are already being used by road users instead of the two pre-existing lanes, which are currently being reconstructed. The project also includes over two kilometres of new rubble walls, replacing the existing dilapidated boundary walls, the construction of a safer central strip with vehicle restraint systems and several other structures.”

To reduce the risks of digging up the new road surface after it is completed, Infrastructure Malta is collaborating with the utilities and with telecommunication services providers to upgrade existing underground distribution networks along the same road, the agency added.

“The new pipelines replaced old water mains dating back decades. The new underground cables will be used instead of a stretch of high voltage aerial lines on poles supplying electricity to the rural areas between San Gwann and Birkirkara. The old poles and aerial lines can be dismantled after the new underground connection is energised. Another four-kilometre network of ducts and cables was installed along the same road to energise a new LED street lighting system comprising 160 lamp posts.”

“Weather permitting, the two phases of this project are planned to be completed as soon as possible.”

Through the ongoing upgrade, road users travelling along Triq tal-Balal and its roundabouts will experience travel time reductions ranging from 30 to 40 percent less than current durations, the agency said in its replies. “These figures are based on the existing road capacity, ongoing traffic count analysis for this road and other nearby junctions and connections as well as future demand projections. The indicated improvements will also lead to a decrease in vehicle emissions caused by long queuing times.”    

This €4 million infrastructural investment also includes the rebuilding of Triq tal-Balal’s four roundabouts to introduce new bypass lanes and improved junction designs, the agency said.

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