“IM using cycle infrastructure to justify land use in the Mrieħel project”

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Updated at 3:45 p.m., adds instant messaging statement

Cyclists criticized the Roads Agency for using cycle infrastructure to justify occupying land to extend the Mrieħel bypass with a flyover.

The NGO Rota said that although Infrastructure Malta claimed that additional land was needed for a new cycle lane and a new trail, the proposals presented to cyclists in October did not mention any additional land occupation.

According to these initial plans, the cycle path would have been on the side of the industrial and residential area.

It was only on November 16 that Rota was informed that the cycle path would be removed from the interior, and, against the advice of the NGO, redeveloped on the outskirts next to the fields.

“Rota had informed IM that this proposal was unacceptable as it would become
unnecessary and dangerous for people traveling by bicycle, ”Rota said in a statement Friday, adding that during discussions with the agency, the NGO reported several existing rural roads in the Qormi Valley such as Triq il-Belt Valletta , Triq il-Ħofor, and Triq Hannibal who would not occupy additional farmland.

“As a result, it unfortunately became clear that IM only uses cycling infrastructure as a pretext to occupy more land for the widening of the road without
taking into account the user needs for this infrastructure.

“There is enough space to create a safe cycling infrastructure without occupying additional land,” he said.

Photo: ROTA

Plans for the busy road were revealed last month by Moviment Graffitti, who said the flyover would replace the current pedestrian bridge and occupy farmland equivalent to the size of three football fields.

The farmers called for the consultation of all stakeholders to find alternative solutions to the sacrifice of farmland.

Infrastructure Malta defended its plans, arguing that the overflight is necessary to eliminate the danger caused when traffic from southern Malta crosses the ring road into the Tal-Blat area adjacent to the Mrieħel industrial area.

However, the project received strong criticism.

Among other things, the local Qormi council urged IM to simply close the dangerous junction through the Mrieħel ring road and redirect traffic to other roads.

President Emeritus Marie Louise Coleiro Preca also expressed her concerns, insisting that IM should answer questions about the impact of the project on the region and the city of Qormi in particular.

Former Prime Minister Alfred Sant also criticized the agency’s plan to build a bridge over the Mrieħel ring road and said IM needs to become much more transparent and accountable for its plans.

Cycling, walking track moved across road to save trees, IM says

But in a response, Infrastructure Malta said some organizations are “perpetuating the lie” that its proposal to improve the safety of the Mrieħel bypass involves widening that road to six lanes.

At no point during the ongoing planning stages of this project has Infrastructure Malta considered widening the Mrieħel bypass to six lanes, he said.

She confirmed that while her road planners initially considered including a new separate path for pedestrians and cyclists along the eastbound carriageway (Mrieħel to Qormi), this proposal was discarded in studies. later because it would have required the relocation of parts of the existing central strip road and the uprooting of several of its mature trees.

In addition, this proposal would still not have led to a reduction in the area of ​​new land required for this new infrastructure. Thus, while the land use would have remained the same, more trees would have had to be felled. This, he said, is the main reason he is proposing the new bike and walking path across the road.

“Rota’s proposal is inadequate”

Rota’s proposal to reduce the road’s existing lanes to around 2.75 meters was not adequate for the road in question, IM said. The 3.25 meter track she cited, IM said, was incorrect because it omits an additional space of up to 0.5 meter on either side of the two carriageways, required in such a road design between the line. edge of the track and the sidewalk.

Infrastructure Malta also referred to what it called “recent false allegations” by individuals and organizations that the proposed ring road security upgrade requires 22,500 square meters of additional land. .

The proposed new road bridge and the roundabout below, to eliminate the black spot of the accident at the T-junction with Triq in Negozju, will only require 5,657 square meters, which is 75% less than what is falsely. alleged, he said.

IM said the planned security upgrade, which is still in its initial design stages, involves the construction of an airlift at the junction between the Mrieħel bypass (Royal Malta Artillery Avenue) and Triq in-Negozju.

Overview to eliminate blackheads

It will eliminate the existing crash black spot, where vehicles are forced to make a sharp turn against oncoming traffic to reach Mriehel via In-Negozju Street, a black spot since the construction of the ring road in the 1990s. .

This safety upgrade, IM said, is specified in Malta’s National Transport Master Plan 2025, which ranks it as the eighth most important thoroughfare upgrade needed to keep TEN safe and efficient. -T (trans-European transport network – core and Complete) in Malta, as required by Regulation (EU) 1315/2013.

The safety of intersections on this road is also highlighted as a major concern in the 2006 Central Malta Local Plan. The plan identifies security improvements on the Mrieħel ring road as one of the region’s political priorities.

Alternative modes of transport

He said the second goal of the proposed project is the introduction of new facilities for alternative modes of travel. The proposed separate cycling and walking track will be separated from the existing vehicle lanes by hundreds of new trees that Infrastructure Malta has proposed to plant along a new one-kilometer strip of landscaping.

If the urban planning and environmental authorities have approved the proposal for this new segregated route for more sustainable modes of travel, about 8,800 additional square meters are needed, still far from the 22,500 square meters claimed by some organizations.

Infrastructure Malta reiterated that this is “the safest and most sustainable proposal” for the introduction of new facilities for pedestrians and cyclists along this route.

“It will now be up to the authorities to determine whether or not to approve the construction of this new cycling and walking infrastructure,” he said.

The longest cycle path of its kind in Malta

IM said the new 1.6 kilometer cyclist and pedestrian lane along the Mrieħel ring road will be directly linked to the 4.3 kilometer separate cycle and pedestrian path of the Central Link project, currently extending from Ta ‘Qali in Mrieħel, so that it can be used to reach Qormi safely. The Central Link Project cycling and walking path, the longest of its kind in Malta, will therefore be even longer, reaching almost six kilometers.

The proposed new separate trail for cyclists and pedestrians will be safely connected to Mrieħel, Balzan and Birkirkara by three level crossings, including two toucan level crossings (near the offices of the Financial Services Authority of Malta and the proposed crossing of the Triq in-Negozju flyover), as well as an underpass for pedestrians and cyclists halfway along the same ring road. The proposed upgrade will increase safety and accessibility for cyclists and pedestrians traveling to and from Qormi.

Audience to consult

IM said that once the plans for this safety upgrade have been discussed with all stakeholders, including relevant planning and environmental authorities, the final proposal will also be made available to the public for consultation. before being submitted to the planning authority for decision.

IM said it is committed to continuing to seek discussions and consultations with all stakeholders to ensure that its proposal for increased security along the Mrieħel ring road is optimized with realistic, sustainable and safe solutions in the best interests of all road users.

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