Infrastructure Malta says ‘road ’ was necessary to make it safe for pedestrians

Gozo ferry users, boathouse owners and beachgoers are up in arms over the Għadira Bay project as this will result in a bottle neck for all southbound traffic. Commuters who spoke with Voice of the Workers Weekly complained that the decision to narrow down the southbound carriageway to a single lane will result in long queues.  They pointed out that the extent of the problem had already emerged last summer when traffic was limited to a single file due to works, which resulted in long tailbacks reaching Ċirkewwa and Armier Bay.

“It beggars belief how this single-lane arrangement will be on permanent basis as it is amply clear that this will be a blunder,” many remarked.

Contacted by this portal, the CEO of the State agency piloting this project, Infrastructure Malta, downplayed these concerns while confirming that the southbound lane between the Għadira Bay parking facility and the roundabout opposite the police station would be redesigned as a single-lane thoroughfare. Ivan Falzon justified what he described as “road dieting” on the ground that this would “prioritize pedestrian safety and activity”. He added that the roadside parking was shifted to the southbound lane adjacent to the beach to avoiding pedestrians crossing three lanes to the opposite side next to the nature reserve where no parking will be allowed.

However, traffic experts who spoke to this portal on condition of anonymity lambasted the entire project saying it made no sense to narrow the road. “This will be a recipe for disaster especially in summer or during long weekends. During peak time from 5pm onwards all traffic from the Gozo ferry and the nearby beaches of Armier which would have accumulated throughout the day will have to squeeze through a single lane.”

Moreover, they noted that if the government was so keen to apply “road dieting” this should have been done in the opposite carriageway. “Narrowing the northbound side to a single lane would have had a lesser impact as the traffic heading to Gozo and Armier is spread throughout the day whereas in the southbound side all commuters will in all probability drive back home within a short span of hours and hence more likely to result in a traffic jam,” the warned.

No permit sought

Meanwhile, plans for this project are not publicly available on the planning authority website as the works are not covered by a planning permit despite the fact that the area was redesigned from scratch. According to the Infrastructure Malta CEO, there was no obligation by law to seek a permit since the project is within the existing footprint including the promenade. Consequently, it is not known if the project has been subjected to the usual development applications scrutiny in terms of design, accessibility and environmental considerations.

“Infrastructure Malta doesn’t require PA permits when working on existing road spaces, including footpaths, verges, parking or shoulders that form part of said road space,” Falzon insisted.

Project to be ready in a year’s time

Works on this project which started in January last year have been dogged by delays. According to the latest timeframe the target completion date is set for March 2024.  So far most of the works on the northbound lanes have been completed including the laying of more than 5km of water mains and the reconstruction of 1.6km of road surface. These lanes are currently open on base layers of asphalt as a diversion.

Works will be halted once again for summer by which time the objective is to rebuild the southbound lane, the 1.2km-long promenade, 5km of services/ducts and 1.6km of road surface.

The final phase is schedule to start in October and comprises finished works, final asphalt layers, landscaping, and road markings.