The Malta Independent 21 January 2021, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Infrastructure - Opening unopened roads

Thursday, 3 December 2020, 08:24 Last update: about 3 months ago

It was a little less than six weeks ago that Prime Minister Robert Abela “inaugurated” the Santa Lucija tunnels project.

Infrastructure Malta said, in a press release issued on the day, that the opening of the tunnels had created “an uninterrupted connection between Santa Lucija Avenue and Tal-Barrani Road.”

Yet for most of the past six weeks, the tunnels have been partially closed to traffic as works such as the installation of lights and crash barriers continue. The southbound lanes, for example, have been closed on several occasions, with traffic being diverted through the northbound tunnel. As a result, traffic coming from Tal-Barrani is being diverted to the roundabout above the tunnel – an area that still looks like a construction site. This was the situation until yesterday.

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In reality, vehicles can still pass through the area, but the point here is more of a political one. Why did the Prime Minister have to hold a press conference almost a month and a half ago to “open” the project, when the project is very clearly far from completed?

The same can be said for several other road projects around the country. A case in point is Triq Sant Antnin in Ghajnsielem, Gozo, which was “inaugurated” with much pomp and fanfare last month. The organisers of the event even rolled out red cushioned chairs for the VIPs, yet photos sent by the Department of Information gave up the fact that the chairs were placed on an uneven and cratered layer of tarmac which was obviously not the final one.

Once again, the government was inaugurating an incomplete project. To make it worse, a few days later part of the road was damaged by storm water. So much for completed!

PM Abela has also recently “inaugurated” part of the Central Link project in Attard. There too, the road still lacked the final layer of tarmac, lights and other amenities. And the surrounding area still looks like a warzone.

The same can be said for the stretch of road that passes over the Marsa/Qormi flyover. The bridge was repaired some time ago, but the road above still lacks proper markings and the concrete barriers that are narrowing the road down have not yet been removed. 

The question is: why can’t politicians wait a few more days until the projects are completed? Once that happens, they can boast about their achievements without any issue, but why do it before? Could this be a rush to show that projects are being completed before the planned timeframes? Or perhaps it was a slow week and the government wanted to show that it was doing something?

It is true that a lot of projects are underway, but perhaps this is the problem. Are we biting off more than we can chew? Was the seven-year roads rebuilding pledge too optimistic? It probably was.

The road infrastructure in several parts of the island currently looks like a warzone and, now that winter has set in, the weather is hampering the construction works. We are not saying that road projects should be carried out one by one, but starting them all simultaneously is not the option, either. We need to be realistic and only take up a number of projects that we can handle.

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