ERA: Clear evidence widened roads rapidly fill with induced traffic

Negative impacts of Central Link project ‘of significant concern’ to Environment and Resources Authority

The current bi-directional Triq Nutar Zarb will be turned into a uni-directional road, forcing the creation of a new road into the surrounding fields joining up to the main Rabat thoroughfare
The current bi-directional Triq Nutar Zarb will be turned into a uni-directional road, forcing the creation of a new road into the surrounding fields joining up to the main Rabat thoroughfare

The Environment and Resources Authority has once again expressed its concern on the permanent loss of 48,466sq.m of good quality agricultural land and 549 trees, including 272 protected trees, as a result of the controversial Central Link project.

While noting that the project is meant to alleviate traffic and congestion with the intention of improving air quality, in its final report the environmental watchdog insisted that the negative impacts of the project remain of “significant concern”.

Moreover, the ERA is also insisting that the traffic reduction issue must be tackled at a “strategic level” through “sustainable measures that effectively reduce dependence on car transport”.

The environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the project had warned that the project does not effectively address the ever-increasing quantity of licensed vehicles on the Maltese roads. It also refers to various scientific articles which explain that whilst road-widening schemes in urban areas are often proposed as a solution to traffic congestion, there is “clear evidence that new or expanded roads rapidly fill with displaced or induced traffic, offsetting any short-term gains in eased traffic flows”.

In its report ERA fell short of giving its consent to the project insisting that the conditions presented for inclusion in the permit were being done “without prejudice” to its concerns.  

This contrasts with ERA’s stance on other projects like the revised Townsquare high-rise in Sliema, where it ultimately declared that “it does not object to the proposal from an environmental point of view”. In this case ERA’s final report does not include an objection.

Other negative impacts highlighted by ERA include the generation of 195,000sq.m of inert waste, construction noise and vibration impacts on residential areas and traffic noise impacts on sensitive residential receptors along the new Attard Bypass.

The ERA report does refer to a cost-benefit analysis carried out in June 2018 which states that a lack of interventions in the area will reach a state of gridlock by 2028  and that the network in this area is characterised by large volumes of traffic and congestion that lead to long travel times and high vehicular emissions within the locality, often exceeding threshold limits.

The Central link project

The project will include the modification of several existing junctions to cater for the increase in the number of lanes and the construction of the Attard Bypass.

It will improve the traffic flow through Attard through the conversion of Triq in-Nutar Zarb from a single carriageway bidirectional road, to a unidirectional road.

The existing Triq In-Nutar Zarb will cater for eastbound vehicles travelling towards Mriehel, with the proposed unidirectional Attard Bypass accommodating vehicles travelling in a westbound direction towards Rabat.

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