A so-called 'hairpin' system being proposed as an alternative to the shelved tunnel project running underneath Pembroke will not address the influx of cars and is a short-term solution, according to the locality’s mayor.

A hairpin turn is a bend in a road with a very acute inner angle, making it necessary for oncoming traffic to slow down and turn about 180° to continue on the same road.

Dean Hili believes that the proposed traffic management system based on two hairpins is “clearly intended to address today’s issues, not the ones yet to come”.

He was speaking to Times of Malta after Infrastructure Malta told Malta Today it had shelved the much-promised tunnel which was meant to alleviate traffic caused by the db project and other projects in the area.

Last Wednesday, a court shot down an appeal mounted by activist groups and Pembroke residents to stop the db Group from developing the site of the former ITS campus into a massive commercial and tourism hub.

This means that the group now has the legal go-ahead to proceed with its approved plans to excavate the site and develop three towers that will rise to 17, 16 and 12 floors respectively, in a project that will include a hotel and retail space as well as high-end apartments.

Infrastructure Malta chief executive Ivan Falzon said the plans for the 1.5-kilometre tunnel between St Andrews and St George’s Bay had been scrapped and replaced by two ‘hairpin’ turns in the vicinity of Luxol grounds which it believes will address the traffic bottleneck in Swieqi.

It had also shelved other tunnels it had proposed for the Paceville area but is instead considering a grade-separated junction at the entrance to the entertainment Mecca.

The tunnel had originally been proposed to address the increase in traffic resulting from the db and Villa Rosa projects in St George’s Bay. It had been proposed to appease residents’ anger towards the traffic the db project would have generated.

The project was opposed by several environment NGOs as well as the Pembroke council since it would have passed underneath a Natura 2000 site opposite residential houses along  Triq il-Mediterran in Pembroke.

In October 2019, the Planning Authority announced plans by Infrastructure Malta for a €70 million project involving at least four tunnels to cut travel time to St Julian's and eliminate bottlenecks.

The extensive plans for Paceville and Pembroke were published by the Planning Authority after the Ombudsman ruled in favour of a complaint by independent candidate Arnold Cassola that the public should be informed about them.

At the time, a spokesman for Infrastructure Malta said the Pembroke-St Julian’s Connections project was expected to take two to three years to complete and would have seen the reconstruction of St Andrew’s Road into four lanes.

The longest of the new tunnels – 1.5 kilometres – would have connected the High Ridge area to St George’s Bay.

This underground two-lane link, with a lane in each direction, was intended to completely bypass the residential areas of Pembroke and Swieqi and provide quick connections to the Paceville and St Julian’s seafront areas from the northern parts of Malta.

This grand project has now been shelved and Infrastructure Malta is instead proposing the creation of two hairpin turns - one near the Luxol Ground and another at the junction leading towards Pembroke.

A plan of what the proposed hairpins would look like. Photo: IMA plan of what the proposed hairpins would look like. Photo: IM

Falzon said the upgrade foresees the widening of a section of Triq Sant Andrija leading to Triq Villa Rosa by six metres on the side of the valley and the creation of a new road linking Triq il-Gwienaq to Triq Sant Andrija, aimed at facilitating the flow of traffic within Swieqi.

He insisted that the hairpin turns will allow traffic to cross over to the other direction without cutting the traffic flowing in the opposite direction.

Falzon said that the new plans were drawn up after consultation with local councils but Hili is not convinced that this proposal will address future traffic flows.

“I obviously don't agree that this work is going to address the influx of traffic caused by db and other projects in the area, especially because we are aware that tunnels were planned beneath St Andrew's road for many years in relation to the Ten-T network which, for various reasons, were shelved,” Hili said when contacted.

“The success or otherwise of this solution remains to be seen of course but this work and the tunnel seemingly imposed on the viability of the project by TM is another solution to another different problem. I tend to support the solutions mentioned but those are clearly intended to address today's issues not the ones yet to come,” he added.

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