Over 10,000 square metres of agricultural land will be lost to widen Triq Buqana, in the limits of Rabat, but the government is insisting that some of it is required to save a line of trees near the Mtarfa roundabout.
Nonetheless, a spokesman for Infrastructure Malta has acknowledged that the project will still mean uprooting 40 protected trees. It is pledging to make up for this loss by planting new ones.
The spokesman was replying to questions from the Times of Malta on the project, part of a wide-ranging programme to upgrade major arterial roads to ease congestion.
In July, Infrastructure Malta announced it had issued a call for tenders as part of a plan to add a lane for northbound traffic in Triq Buqana, saying this would reduce travel time by a third.
This intervention will reverse the work carried out in 2004, when the road was reconstructed from scratch but narrowed to a single land in both directions.
Furthermore, a 1.8km dedicated cycle lane will be introduced and the roundabouts at either end, one in the limits of Rabat leading to Mtarfa and the other on the outskirts of Mosta leading to Mġarr, are being redesigned.
Despite the government’s intention to start the work by the end of the year, a search on the Planning Authority’s map server for the development application yielded no results. It could not be established, therefore, if any land outside the development zone would be required, the impact on existing trees and the possible risks to historical buildings or possible archaeological sites.
Replying to questions from the Times of Malta, an Infrastructure Malta spokesman confirmed that 10,800 square metres of agricultural land would be required for the project, equivalent to the size of one-and-a-half football pitches.
However, he noted that some of it was necessary to save indigenous trees at the side of the existing northbound carriageway near the Mtarfa roundabout.
Shifting the new lane and cycle track to the left of the landscaped area would protect the trees, as recommended by the environmental authorities, he said.
Further down the road some trees will have to be transplanted and 40 protected ones axed, since they cannot be shifted elsewhere.
The spokesman added that Infrastructure Malta would be compensating for the loss of trees by planting new, indigenous ones in order to have a net overall increase once the project was completed.
Application number (PA 11083/17) will be formally published in the newspapers in the coming days.
The mandatory public consultation period will last just a few days and will close on September 19.
The agency did not state the overall cost of the project, and the spokesman said the process to expropriate land was still under way.
In recent weeks, Infrastructure Malta has come under fire over the controversial decision to widen Tal-Balal Road, between San Ġwann and Naxxar, without a development permit.
Moreover, landowners complained that the authorities concerned had not alerted them in advance that part of their properties were going to be expropriated, with the result that bulldozers turned up on their land without them having known.
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