A new underpass in Santa Luċija was opened by Prime Minister Robert Abela on Friday.
The Santa Luċija tunnels, as they are known, provide an uninterrupted connection between Santa Luċija Avenue and Tal-Barrani Road, along the principal route to southern Malta.
Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg said the new tunnels would be cutting journey times by 30%, reducing congestion emissions and putting fuel savings in drivers’ pockets.
Borg said the new junction will link the busiest route of this crossroad, between Tal-Barrani Road and Santa Luċija Avenue (Addolorata Hill), to the new tunnels, also facilitating commutes through other roundabout connections.
Above the underpass, contractors are now rebuilding the previous roundabout, with an aim to improve access for residents in Santa Luċija, Paola and Tarxien.
The project also comprises the reconstruction of a nearby jogging track as well as a new shared pedestrian and cycling path connecting Santa Lucija to Marsa.
Infrastructure Malta is also rebuilding the old Tal-Barrani Road pedestrian subway.
Works on the Santa Luċija site started in summer 2019, as the project contractors cut over 80,000 tonnes of rock to form the two “cut-and-cover” tunnels of the new 90-metre underpass.
Then 398 precast reinforced concrete panels were erected to build the underpass walls.
Meanwhile, the contractors also formed the two 130-metre approach ramps linking Santa Luċija Avenue and Tal-Barrani Road to the underpass, as well as four slip roads leading to the roundabout above it.
Earlier in October, Infrastructure Malta completed the construction of the tunnels’ roof by pouring tonnes of concrete over a layer of 176 slabs supported by 46 six-tonne reinforced concrete beams.
Final works inside the tunnels will continue in the coming weeks during off peak hours or at night.
As part of this project, workers also built a 1.1 km walk-through underground culvert, extending from Tal-Barrani Road, along Santa Luċija Avenue, to reach another similar underground tunnel network beneath the new flyovers of the Marsa Junction Project.
These tunnels will also house one of the country’s principal 132kV high voltage electricity network connections.
The project also replaced a major underground potable water distribution pipeline in the same area.
The project’s new shared pedestrian and cycling path, almost a kilometre long, forms part of a longer safe cycle network connecting Luqa, Santa Luċija, Tarxien, Paola, Marsa and Qormi.
The first stretch of this two-directional path was developed as part of the reconstruction of Luqa Road, next to Santa Luċija’s Garden of Serenity, in 2019.
Borg said the Santa Luċija project forms part of a long-term investment along the main south-central route of Malta, extending from Pembroke and St Julian’s to Birżebbuġa.
It includes other arterial road upgrades along this route, such as the 2018 reconstruction of Diċembru 13 Road and the Marsa-Ħamrun Bypass, the 2019 rebuilding of part of Regional Road, the Msida Valley Bridge and Luqa Road, among others.
In closing, Prime Minister Abela said Friday’s inauguration was an answer to those who say the government is looking tired - a dig at Opposition leader Bernard Grech.
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