Infrastructure Malta has defended its decision to start building a bridge in Marsa without waiting for a planning permit, saying it is to remove a safety risk to pedestrians.

A spokesman for the agency said pedestrians were having to cross several lanes of traffic and climb over steel crash barriers.

Admitting there was no permit, he said the decision to go ahead was taken “in consultation with planning authorities”.

The bridge is being built over Triq It-Tiġrija, the multi-lane road connecting December 13 Road with the Marsa-Ħamrun bypass.

“The agency launched the construction of the first phase of this project as soon as the necessary resources became available late last year, in consultation with the planning authorities and in line with its statutory obligation to implement road upgrades without delay in cases of imminent public safety risks,” the spokesman said.

He said the first phase of the project consisted of a 30-metre steel bridge over Triq It-Tiġrija’s four lanes, within the footprint of roads and land already earmarked for upgrades.    

The project will lead to a safer walking and cycling route between different residential areas of Marsa and the centre of Qormi, he added.

Similar structures have been built for cyclists and pedestrians at Blata l-Bajda, Luqa and Paola which, the spokesman noted, were contributing to improved pedestrian, public transport and cycling access between different localities.

They provided a safer and “enhanced commute” experience in busy arterial roads, with segregated pathways replacing other forms of road crossings.

Another two footbridges for pedestrians, bus passengers and cyclists are currently under construction as part of the Marsa junction project.

He said the pedestrian route between the centre of Marsa and several locations in Marsa and Qormi on the other side of Triq It-Tiġrija was very popular.

These locations include the park and ride terminus, Marsa sports grounds and commercial, retail and residential areas.

He also said that a pending planning application covered the second phase of the project, which was not as urgent as the first but would further facilitate safer walking and cycling along this route.

The second phase will include a second bridge to replace an existing zebra crossing connecting Triq It-Tiġrija’s southbound carriageway with Triq Diċembru 13 towards Valletta.

'A bulldozer in a crockery shop'

But Wayne Flask from Graffitti Movement accused IM boss Frederick Azzopardi of repeatedly and unashamedly abusing his power.

"A year ago, Infrastructure Malta was defacing Wied Qirda with tarmac but without permits, and ignoring ERA stop-and-comply orders. Now, after spending 2020 bullying farmers and residents in Dingli, Burmarrad and Mrieħel, we start 2021 with this story."

Flask said there is nothing wrong with improving pedestrian access, but wondered why Infrastructure Malta persistently and consistently flouted the rules instead of respecting and enforcing them, as should be expected of a government entity.

"This is the standard way Azzopardi goes about his business: a bulldozer in a crockery shop who is becoming an embarrassment to his minister and to his government. We believe it’s time the prime minister intervenes to rein in this rogue agency and its arrogant CEO and bring an end to stories of lawlessness, arrogance and bullying on residents and farmers around Malta."

Environment Minister questioned

When asked for his reaction in parliament on Tuesday afternoon, Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia said that while he did not have specific information, certain works could be carried out without a permit if they were deemed to be urgent because of a danger to the public. This appeared to be the case in the mentioned development.

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