Driving To Deliver Your Business

Mellieħa bypass service road narrowed, contradicting Transport Malta's claims

Traffic along part of the Mellieha bypass has been reduced to a single file due to the bottleneck caused by the service road. Photo: Jonathan Borg Works to narrow a service road along the Mellieha bypass began on Friday morning, less than 24 hours after Transport Malta insisted there was no change of plans.

The transport watchdog had told Times of Malta on Thursday afternoon that works on the bypass would proceed as originally planned, following speculation that plans were being modified to narrow the service road.

Service road demolition underway on Friday.

Barely two hours after Transport Malta had insisted nothing had changed, it was contradicted by Transport Minister Ian Borg. Dr Borg told parliament on Thursday evening that a decision had been taken to narrow the service road, allowing traffic lanes to be widened. The contradictory statements are the latest in a series of mix-ups concerning the popular bypass.

The issue revolves around a controversial decision that came to light last March when it emerged that Triq Louis Wettinger, as the Mellieha bypass is called, would be narrowed[1]. This was being done to accommodate a road servicing a massive block of 152 apartments, still under construction, by GAP Holdings. Though Transport Minister Ian Borg initially justified the move saying the road would become safer, he later backtracked[2] in view of mounting criticism and a petition that attracted over 3,000 signatures.

Consequently, it was announced that the bypass would be re-designed to keep its existing four-lane configuration while accommodating the service road. The project is costing EUR2 million. READ: Mellieha bypass works awarded by direct order[3]

Safety concerns also expressed Carriageways ‘too narrow’ Sources told the Times of Malta that the project hit a snag a few days ago.

“It transpired that during the formation of the new central strip, one of the contractors notified the Transport Authority that the carriageways were too narrow to accommodate two lanes on each side,” the sources said. Fingers were pointed at GAP Holdings for allegedly going beyond the established plans when constructing the service road, they added. Furthermore, the Times of Malta was told that, to have four lanes, it was necessary to shift the road by about one metre, which would require its partial demolition.

Nationalist MP Robert Cutajar, who raised the case in the House of Representatives in March through a parliamentary question, recently asked about the dimensions of the new lanes at the bypass but the Transport Minister skirted the issue. On Friday morning, Mr Cutajar uploaded a video of works to narrow the service road. “Time proved me right,” he wrote. “No wonder the minister did not reply to my questions two days ago.”

When sent questions by the Times of Malta, a Transport Malta spokesman had said the project was proceeding as planned, “in line with the 2018 plans” and would be completed by summer. However, it was not explained why the plans tabled recently in Parliament by the Transport Minister were dated July 2014. Neither was there any feedback to a photograph highlighting the bottleneck resulting from the tight spaces.

A spokesman for GAP Holdings said when contacted: “To date, no official request to shift the public road alignment inward has been received.” The company also insisted that the service road footprint did not encroach beyond the official alignment as approved by the competent authorities. Meanwhile, motorists who make frequent use of the bypass contacted Times of Malta complaining that traffic had already been reduced to a single lane because of the bottleneck.

Apart from slowing down traffic, safety concerns were also expressed and some are opting to drive through the village core instead. A site visit by the Times of Malta confirmed that in certain parts it was practically impossible for two vehicles to drive side by side, especially heavy vehicles. Criticism has also been levelled at the introduction of a continuous central strip on grounds that this will force Mellieha residents using the Mizieb Road to take a long detour to switch to the other side of the bypass.

Traffic along the neighbouring residential roads has already increased as motorists avoid the bypass.

References

  1. ^ would be narrowed (www.timesofmalta.com)
  2. ^ he later backtracked (www.timesofmalta.com)
  3. ^ READ: Mellieha bypass works awarded by direct order (www.timesofmalta.com)



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