Confusing junctions, potential bottlenecks, unsafe bike lanes and missing street signs are among 37 different issues flagged by Transport Malta over the roadworks at Tal-Balal, between Naxxar and San Ġwann.
The €4.4 million upgrading project is being carried out by another government agency, Infrastructure Malta, and began last August without planning permission, with a permit only granted in November when much of the work had already been done.
Transport Malta was asked by the Planning Authority to give its comments and recommendations on the basis of plans submitted by the roadworks agency after the permit was issued.
In an unusually lengthy reply, the transport watchdog listed dozens of issues with the plans, including the fact that the roundabouts along the two-kilometre road catered had one circulatory lane despite nearly all the entry arms having two lanes, potentially creating bottlenecks.
One particular roundabout at the junction with Triq Murray earned itself eight different recommendations, including over its confusing layout, potential road blockages, missing signage and access requirements.
Transport Malta also warned that bike lanes passing through roundabouts could cause collisions as they took up part of the lane width, meaning the rest of the lane was not wide enough to fit a vehicle alongside a cyclist.
It also criticised the fact that different stretches of the road had different provisions for cyclists – ranging from cycle lanes to shared line markings to nothing at all – which, it said, could cause confusion.
Moreover, directional signage, roundabout approach signage, speed limit signs and directional arrow signs on the central island of roundabouts were all missing at some critical points, Transport Malta noted.
There were no details of storm water installations, it said.
At one roundabout towards San Ġwann, there was no indication of street lighting and another junction was flagged as being unsafe due to a lack of physical separation between the roundabout and adjoining service road.
The safety of several bus stops and bus lay-bys was questioned due to issues of positioning or road markings in some cases and, in others, the lack of footpaths, shelters and safe pedestrian crossings.
Infrastructure Malta has already faced a €42,000 fine after starting the works without a planning permit, with an application subsequently filed to regularise the works in progress.
When the application was approved in November, a permit was granted on condition that detailed drawings of various aspects of the roadworks would be submitted and assessed by Transport Malta.
Infrastructure Malta justified its decision to start works without a permit due to the urgent nature of the project, part of a country-wide infrastructural programme to alleviate traffic congestion in major arterial thoroughfares.
The original deadline of October 2018 and a subsequent end-of-year target have both been missed and works are still ongoing.
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