Editorial | How lack of planning and coordination killed a dream

More importantly, in those roads where trenches have sprouted up, we expect the road surface to be redone professionally to ensure it is up to standard


Paola’s main square was reorganised and paved with cobble stones in 2018 as part of a regeneration project that wanted to prioritise pedestrians.

Although the square was not fully pedestrianised, the cobble stones that extended onto the roads passing through it were intended to slow down traffic, creating a shared space for cars and people.

The work done on the roads passing through the square was not intended to accommodate heavy vehicles. Unfortunately, shortly after the project was completed, works on the Marsa junction project meant that traffic was re-routed through Paola causing damage to the new road paving. Substantial parts of the cobbled road started to give way, giving rise to frustration, anger and ridicule.

Now, almost six years later, on the direction of the new transport minister, Infrastructure Malta scraped off the cobbled road and relayed tarmac. The solution to the potholed road was a return to the ordinary tarmac. In the project architect’s own words, the laying of tarmac “killed the dream” of having a square that prioritised pedestrians.

It beggars belief that just as the square was completed heavy traffic was rerouted through it because of the Marsa junction project. Good planning would have postponed the Paola square project in its entirety or at the least, the part concerning the roads, to after the Marsa junction project was completed.

If the material used was not suitable to carry heavy loads – this is how it was planned –

the regeneration works should have been complemented by banning heavy vehicles from passing through the square thus reducing the intensity of throughput traffic and enforcing a slower speed limit.

None of this happened and as a result public funds were squandered. It appears that to avoid an even bigger expense the quickest and cheapest solution was sought. From a practical point of view tarmac has now solved the long-standing problem to the satisfaction of motorists but has undermined the pedestrian-first rationale that underpinned the square’s redesign. People cannot be faulted for being relieved that the problematic road has been fixed. After six long years, any solution would do for them to have a good road surface.

Unfortunately, the solution destroyed the idea of having a beautiful space that distinguishes the square as a unique meeting point for residents.

But the Paola square saga is symptomatic of a much wider malaise in the public sector:

lack of planning and coordination between different entities.

For starters, Paola square was done up by an agency that exists no more, leaving it parentless. Unfortunately, the square became a victim of government fragmentation where infrastructural, road and green projects are involved.

Secondly, the lack of coordination is now visible in other roads which are being dug up by Enemalta to lay down new electricity distribution infrastructure. It was obvious last summer during the 10-day heatwave when cables went haywire that the country had not invested enough in the power distribution network. Enemalta has since then gone on a justified spree to upgrade large tracts of the distribution network in several localities.

The problem now is that many roads, some of which were only recently done, are patched up with serious doubts as to their longevity.

Once again, better coordination could have avoided situations such as those in Naxxar where residential roadworks that have been going on forever have to be redone because Enemalta decided to relay part of its distribution network.

More importantly, in those roads where trenches have sprouted up, we expect the road surface to be redone professionally to ensure it is up to standard.

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