Even though only the first phase of the €700-million road resurfacing and rebuilding programme has been rolled out as yet, there is no question that good improvement is already noticeable in several places. With so many roads all over the country in such a bad state, the work programme was well overdue.
The upgrading that is being done will not solve the traffic problems – some even insist it will get worse – but it will perhaps help in making driving less stressful.
While it is obviously desirable for the work to continue at a good pace, it does not mean that Infrastructure Malta should go ahead without adequate advance planning or without due consideration being given to the inconvenience caused to either residents in areas where the work is being done or to motorists.
Rightly or wrongly, the impression is being given that, in some cases, no thorough planning was done before the work was taken in hand or that it was deficient. True, the programme is quite extensive and some inconvenience is inevitable but, again, it should not be carried out haphazardly or in a manner that displays arrogance and/or lack of due diligence.
It was bad enough for the government to allow the situation to deteriorate so much before launching the upgrading programme. It should not now try to get the programme done at a speed that will sacrifice good planning or workmanship.
Two cases where no adequate advance planning appear to have been done are the road widening project at Tal-Balal and the roadworks at Ħal Farruġ, in Luqa. At Tal-Balal, work on the building of a new, two-kilometre lane from Naxxar to San Ġwann and the rebuilding of four roundabouts to provide for new bypass lanes was started without a development permit.
The project sparked controversy when tracts of agricultural land were bulldozed to make way for the additional lane. Infrastructure Malta was fined for starting the work before getting the permit first but it is not the fine that is at issue here but the fact that it began the work without first obtaining the permit. This suggests an amateurish attitude to what ought to be a professional exercise, particularly so when it is being done at the taxpayer’s expense.
Once again, the state agency did not wait to get the permit first before starting work at a traffic junction in Ħal Farruġ. To add insult to injury, it is even contesting a fine (€20,000), claiming it is excessive. The chief executive officer argued that work had to start immediately to ease traffic caused by the ongoing works on the multi-level intersection in Marsa. He, therefore, felt the works were “very urgent”. But the urgency would not have arisen had action been taken (and the necessary permits obtained) to tackle all the possible snowballing effects of the project well beforehand. The CEO must certainly shoulder some responsibility for failing to do things the right way.
Without in any way minimising the magnitude of some of the projects in hand, proper planning procedure would need to be followed in all pro-jects, not just “when possible”, as the CEO said when it was well pointed out to him that the government ought to lead by example.
No one should be above the law.
This is a Times of Malta print editorial
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