Editorial | A clash of ideas, not egos produces better roads

A clash of ideas that produces tangible results is better than a clash of egos that creates unnecessary friction and opposition


The overhaul in the road infrastructure witnessed over the past few years is unprecedented and a welcome investment.

The road network has long been crying out for improvement with the last major upgrade having been carried out in the 1990s when the Santa Venera tunnels and the Mrieħel bypass were constructed.

Since then, singular road projects were carried out that tried to solve certain bottlenecks such as the Kappara Junction flyover, or improve road safety.

Government’s 2017 pledge to invest €100 million per year for seven years to overhaul the road network was a welcome move. For the first time, a large budget was dedicated to road improvements.

Equally important was the creation of a roads agency in the form of Infrastructure Malta (IM) to handle the massive investment. The efficiency and expediency with which IM has worked is praiseworthy and a welcome improvement.

Apart from doing up numerous residential roads, IM has invested heavily in major upgrades to the main road network by tackling long-standing bottlenecks.

The Marsa Junction project, the Santa Lucia tunnels, the Central Link project, the Luqa-Qormi link road, the Santa Venera-Hamrun bypass and the Msida valley bridge have improved traffic flow, made travelling more efficient and as a consequence contributed to less pollution.

IM has also proposed tackling other bottlenecks within urban or semi-urban areas like Msida centre, outside the airport and now also in Mrieħel. The agency does well to focus its energy and expertise to solve these problems as well.

However, in doing so, the agency must not run roughshod over legitimate concerns raised by residents, who can be impacted by these sensitive projects.

The latest controversy concerns a proposed flyover junction to make entry and exit into the Mrieħel industrial estate safer and more efficient.

There is no doubt that this estate, which has been renamed as the Central Business District (CBD), is today a very important employment zone that requires efficient entry and exit roads on all sides of the sprawling zone. Ideally this is achieved without taking up valuable agricultural land.

Within this context, the proposal put forward by the Qormi council provides an alternative to IM’s plans that merits serious consideration.

The council proposal for the creation of a tunnel beneath the existing Mrieħel bypass to allow throughput traffic to flow freely, while diverting slower moving traffic intending to enter the CBD to the surface road, appears to be at face value a satisfactory proposal. It avoids the take up of agricultural land and creates a green ring road on the outskirts of CBD.

Even more ambitious would be a more holistic approach by developing a similar tunnel project along Mdina Road to the north side of the CBD.

It is obvious that any such plans must be studied and subjected to computer modelling to determine whether they will give the desired outcome based on expected traffic counts.

But they must not be written off outright.

The council alternative may be costlier but a holistic approach that incorporates all sides of the CBD may necessitate a substantial investment to provide a comprehensive solution that respects residents and also provides green spaces.

Just as it adopted a holistic approach in the Marsa Junction project and the Santa Lucia tunnels, IM must do likewise to address congestion and safety concerns at Mrieħel while striving to respect as far as possible the concerns raised by farmers and the council.

A clash of ideas that produces tangible results is better than a clash of egos that creates unnecessary friction and opposition.

More in Business