The environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the Central Link Project confirms this proposal as the most effective and sustainable solution to reduce travelling times and improve air quality along the arterial road corridor between Mriehel and Ta’ Qali.
Based on several independent studies, the EIA also indicates that if the existing roads are not upgraded to meet current and future transport requirements, this route will become completely gridlocked within 10 years, with serious air quality implications to nearby localities.
Infrastructure Malta has just submitted all the EIA studies completed by the independent experts, along with the final project plans, to the environmental and planning authorities, which are considering the development application for this important investment. The EIA will soon be published by the authorities as part of the final consultations before the development application is determined. The project plans were updated following extensive consultations with the area’s residents, non-governmental organisations and other entities, to maximise the benefits of this investment to road users and to residents of nearby localities, including Birkirkara, Balzan and Attard.
The EIA considers different proposals for the upgrading of the area’s road network and identifies the plans proposed by Infrastructure Malta as the most beneficial option in terms of air quality improvement, environmental sustainability and travel time reductions. It confirms that the Central Link Project plans will require 57% less agricultural land than the amount originally earmarked in a similar road upgrade proposal planned 13 years ago, as part of the Central Malta Local Plan. These 2006 plans, which were never implemented, had already indicated congestion along Triq l-Imdina, Triq in-Nutar Zarb and other nearby roads as a major problem for Attard and nearby localities.
The EIA confirms that these difficulties to thousands of commuters persist, and will get worse if existing infrastructure is not improved. It reveals that if the road network is not upgraded, morning and afternoon travel times in the area will increase by 2.8 times and 4.4 times respectively by 2030, and by 8.1 and 7.8 times in 2045.
The air quality study, which is based on 2018 air monitoring in several locations along the route, shows the effect of this gridlock situation on the area’s air quality. If the project is not implemented, particulate matter (PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions in the area, including Attard and Balzan, will increase by 104% and 35% in 2030 and by 229% and 86% fifteen years later. PM10 and NO2 are the two main pollutants linked to road transport emissions. By eliminating existing bottlenecks and congested junctions, Central Link Project will lead to average PM10 reductions of 42% by 2030 and 60% by 2045, even when considering future transport demand. NO2 emissions will be lowered by 15% in 2030 and 30% in 2045.
Central Link Project is a major Infrastructure Malta investment to upgrade the quality, safety and efficiency of the arterial road link extending from the Mriehel Bypass, along Mdina Road, through Birkirkara, Balzan and Attard, to the roundabout at the foot of Saqqajja Hill, at Ta’ Qali. It will halve travel times in this area by reconstructing 13 junctions, removing four traffic lights systems and adding over seven kilometres of new lanes along a 4.3 kilometre road corridor. The project also introduces many facilities for alternative modes of travel, including safe pedestrian footpaths, improved bus lay-bys and the longest segregated cycle track in the Maltese Islands.
Besides the EIA, this month Infrastructure Malta also concluded the final project plans, with several improvements to the original designs announced last year. The two-lane northbound road being built outside Attard to eliminate the bottlenecks through the centre of this locality has now been shifted further away from the existing nearby residential roads. This new road will follow the same route as the four-lane bypass planned in 2006, but will use less than half the land originally earmarked for its development.
The new road is now separated from Triq Ferdinandu Inglott, Triq Oliver Agius and Triq Tumas Chetcuti with a wider landscaped area and a new four-metre segregated bi-directional cycle track, which will be incorporated as part of the reconstruction of the same residential roads. Moreover, the new arterial road will be built at a lower level, up to four metres (over one storey) beneath the existing residential roads, to drastically reduce its visual impact on the nearby houses and villas.
Another important update to the Central Link Project plans is the redesign of the proposed cycle lane, which has now been transformed into the longest bi-directional segregated cycle track in Malta, extending all the way from Mriehel (Malta Financial Services Authority offices area) to Ta’ Qali. Through a new underpass, this cycle track is also safely connected to the Mriehel Industrial Zone and Birkirkara. It has been redesigned to improve access to and from Attard and Balzan.
The project is also adding a new 40-metre flyover to improve the accessibility and safety of the route from Attard to the northbound carriageway of Triq l-Imdina, towards Ta’ Qali, Rabat, Zebbug and the northern part of Malta.
The new plans also add a 40-metre flyover to facilitate Attard residents’ access to the northbound carriageway of Triq l-Imdina, towards Ta’ Qali, Zebbug, Rabat and the northern part of Malta.
Infrastructure Malta will continue collaborating with the relevant authorities to conclude the ongoing planning and permitting process and start implementing the Central Link Project’s long awaited road upgrades as soon as possible.