The Malta Independent 25 May 2024, Saturday
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TMID Editorial: Better planning, please

Saturday, 13 April 2024, 10:42 Last update: about 2 months ago

Last Wednesday, we had a stark reminder of how fragile the road distribution network in Malta is. Each time a small part – in this case not more than half a kilometre – of a main carriageway is closed to traffic, for whatever reason, the whole traffic situation across the island is affected.

A delay in the reopening of a road where work was taking place overnight led to traffic mayhem that stretched all the way from St Julian’s to Cottonera, compounded as it was also by the closure of part of Corradino Hill.

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The stretch between the St Julian’s tunnels and the Paceville traffic lights remained closed until 8.30am – when it should have been reopened at 5am – due to what was described as a technical issue. It turned out that the concrete laid in emergency work on the Swieqi bridge did not dry quickly enough for the road to be reopened in time.

This meant that traffic proceeding towards the north had to be diverted to the Spinola area, which meant that the long line of cars held in a traffic jam went back kilometres. Added to this, the closure of part of Sliema Road in the Kappara area made the use of an alternative route impossible.

So many man-hours were lost in the process and so many motorists were left fuming as they made their way to their destination at a snail’s pace.

This is not the first time that it has happened. Last year, Mellieha was the scene of a long traffic jam when asphalt took longer to dry and the Ghadira Bay area remained closed longer than anticipated. And, when it is not road works that cause a delay, it is road accidents that also lead to long traffic jams when they happen on the main arterial road network.

But what is more irksome for drivers is that when supposedly planned roadworks go awry, and when alternative routes are also blocked by other projects, such as what happened on Wednesday.

Transport Minister Chris Bonett has been quoted as saying that “we will continue working to reduce similar incidents”. What is needed is better planning.

This takes us to Infrastructure Malta’s project to construct a flyover where the Paceville traffic lights are at present situated – the same area which was blocked last Wednesday. Are motorists to expect hours-long delays when this project starts taking shape?

To the fair to the agency, while it is to be expected that there are delays on roads where huge projects are taking place, on most occasions these delays were reduced to a minimum. But given what happened on Wednesday, and given that this particular road which was closed will be the same one where a major project will be taking place in the coming months/years, it is hoped that Infrastructure Malta will come up with a better plan to divert traffic away from the site.

For one thing, other projects in the area need to be completed before the Paceville flyover project gets underway, so as to avoid a similar situation as what happened last Wednesday.

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