Transport Malta has reassured commuters that traffic will continue to flow through the Marsa junction despite the major works there in the coming months.
The Kappara Junction had more alternative routes but there is far more space at Marsa to keep lanes open, the Transport Malta team behind the upgrade project said.
Commuters have been dreading the new €70 million project even more than the Kappara junction works. For a start, it is busier – 90,000 cars a day compared to 60,000 at Kappara – but it is also more complex and offers far fewer options for those wanting to get from A to B.
“There are far more lanes available and we can leave them open during the works so capacity will not be affected,” the incoming head of the roads agency, Fredrick Azzopardi, said.
Surrounded by over a dozen people leading the project – representing a team of 70 – project leader Walter Portelli said that the first two phases of the contract were precisely about preparation.
“We have closed the bus lanes on Aldo Moro Road to ease traffic and the centre strip is being removed, as had been done at Kappara, to give us flexibility,” he said.
“Trees were also being re-sited from the edge of the Marsa sports complex, which will provide an extra lane for traffic plus a dedicated cycling lane.
“Coming the other way, traffic from the airport to Qormi and Żebbuġ is being deviated through the industrial estate to near the soft drinks factory,” Mr Portelli, an architect and civil engineer, added.
“And that to Valletta is all passing in front of Super One. The road behind is being resurfaced, with all the under-road utilities being dealt with. When it reopens, traffic using that road will only be able to go towards the Turkish cemetery, solving the bottleneck next to the government printing press.”
The removal of the factories between the Valletta-bound and south-bound lanes is the key to the three-year project. That surprisingly wide strip will host the new flyover lanes to Valletta, leaving the current lanes free for a huge parking area to be used as a park and ride, with more available on the corner by the Addolorata Cemetery.
This aspect is one of project designer Robert Zerafa’s most important goals: for the project to be not only about easing the nightmare traffic flows but also about people, with three pedestrian bridges, as well as the parking.
The team is also aware of the need to ensure that the junction does not merely displace the traffic jams.
For example, a new lane will be added for cars coming out of the Santa Venera tunnel and the Santa Luċija roundabout will have an underpass to allow traffic towards Bulebel to flow smoothly.
Mr Azzopardi said they were mulling the possibility of opening Dock 7 in the evening, towards the south.
While all the work in phase 1 and 2 is in hand, the biggest question mark remains the flyover contract itself, with the eight bids made being adjudicated. This will, hopefully, not be delayed by objections, though, of course, this is out of the team’s hands.
Yet, all its members are enthusiastic, asking only that drivers observe the 30kmh limit and respect the workers on site.
“There is still plenty ahead. The area is at the confluence of three valleys and has 8-10 metres of mud and Mr Zerafa said.
“So it will need major engineering decisions on piling or foundations. But, once there, the flyovers will last for 100 years.”
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