Say goodbye to soot as road tunnels set for major facelift

The road tunnels at Tal-Qroqq, St Venera, Kirkop and Ta' Giorni will get a major facelift, Transport Minister Ian Borg said on Monday

The St Venera tunnel will be one of four to go through an upgrade
The St Venera tunnel will be one of four to go through an upgrade

Say goodbye to soot in Malta's decrepit road tunnels as Infrastructure Malta is set to carry out major refurbishment works on the road tunnels at Ta' Giorni, Kirkop, St Venera and Tal-Qroqq.

The refurbishment will cover some 4.8km of road.

Transport Minister Ian Borg said that the reasons for the investment were twofold: safety and aestheticism. He was speaking at a press conference on Monday. 

"Besides the €700 million invested in residential roads over seven years, the government is committed to go through with the embellishment and maintenance of four major tunnels in the country," he said, adding that in a country where sunshine is predominant, the light inside the tunnels had to be more than adequate. 

He said how this was a common complaint by motorists. Infrastructure Malta plan to install a dual-lighting system of LEDs inside the four tunnels. 

The Regional Road tunnels at Ta' Giorni were built in 1967
The Regional Road tunnels at Ta' Giorni were built in 1967

This project was mentioned in last year's Budget and was to include three main tunnels, with Borg now announcing that the number has been increased to four.

The oldest of the tunnels are the ones at Ta' Giorni, which form part of Regional Road built in 1967. The most recent are the ones at Tal-Qroqq, dating back to 1996.

Robert Zerafa, an architect from Infrastructure Malta explained how some 50,000 cars go through these tunnels on a daily basis. These tunnels have a strategic importance, he said.

Minister Borg lamented the fact that no major investment had ever been planned for these tunnels despite the desperately required maintenance.

"These four tunnels are black as coal with soot, much like the Triton fountain in Valletta had been before maintenance. We only pay attention to our roads because of some VIP visit, but we now want to send a message that our country needs to change," Borg said.

Borg said that visiting neighbouring countries would enlighten anyone on the better infrastructure and road standards in Europe and that besides the issue of security, an urban environment that is aesthetically pleasing was another important reason why this project is required.

Asked whether the ministry was committed to top off the St Venera tunnels with a ceiling after years of complaints by residents, Borg told MaltaToday that the government would want to see through the project but that the lead ministry in charge of such a project was the environment ministry.

So far, Infrastructure Malta said that three calls for tenders for the tunnel works have been issued with a timeframe of 30 weeks. Most works that would require tube closure would be carried out at night.

Kylie Ann Borg Mark, an Infrastructure Malta architect said the overhaul would include CCTV systems to monitor traffic and air quality indicators.

Tunnel overhaul

  • New CCTV systems to monitor traffic—each tunnel will be equipped with a control room
  • Emergency routes and air-quality indicators
  • Embellishment and ornamentation around the tunnel entrances and exits
  • A dual-lighting system made of LEDs
  • Maintenance to the open-grate manholes and water inlets in the concrete kerbs
  • Upgrading to emergency exits
  • Surface cleaning by pressure jetting, highlighting surface cracks that would be otherwise overlooked
  • Sealing of cracks and repair of damaged concrete
  • Electronic signals that will flash to monitor speed limit and emergency situations
  • Installation of fire hydrants