The great metal wall of Mrieħel
Barriers are going up along the Mrieħel bypass to stop people crossing as the transport watchdog shelves plans to install pedestrian lights.
The latest development follows a decision by Transport Malta two years ago to scrap plans for a pedestrian bridge, which was deemed to be unfeasible.
Instead, the authority had floated the idea of installing a pelican crossing activated when pedestrians press a button.
But this has been abandoned too, with a Transport Malta spokesman saying a pelican crossing was “not advisable”.
When the road was built in the 1990s it cut off a community of around 300 families living on the industrial estate side from having direct access to Qormi centre.
The road gained notoriety seven years ago when two youngsters, Emma Marie Housley, 17, and Graziella Fenech, 13, who wanted to reach their houses on the industrial estate side, were hit by a car and killed while crossing.
According to the spokesman, the number of pedestrians crossing the road is very low – fewer than 15 each day – and technical guidance urges caution in such circumstances because drivers who become accustomed to not being stopped at the crossing could end up ignoring it.
Instead the authority has erected metal barriers that will also help to channel pedestrian traffic further down the road towards the roundabout at Triq il-Mitħna.
“Pedestrian counts highlight that the main desire line for people crossing the Mrieħel bypass from the Tal-Blat area to Qormi centre is through Triq il-Mitħna.
“Crossing at this location is safer for pedestrians as traffic volumes are much lower and the traffic is travelling at a much slower speed,” the spokesman said.
Transport Malta is upgrading the footpaths along Triq il-Mitħna and the crossing facilities around the roundabout. This will create a detour of around 300 metres for residents on the industrial estate.
But Mary Housley, whose daughter was killed in 2005, is unimpressed.
Still scarred by what happened to Emma Marie – who would have turned 24 next Sunday – she insisted the barrier would still not give people safe access.
“If anything, the barrier will continue to ostracise the community. The authorities have not delivered on what they promised when the road was built and are now trying to patch things up,” Mrs Housley said. Her misgivings are shared by Qormi mayor Rosianne Cutajar. She said the barriers were put up without consultation with the council and residents.
“They will not provide a solution but will cage in the Qormi residents living there.”
Ms Cutajar said no expense to safeguard people’s lives was high enough and disputed the argument that a footbridge was not financially feasible given “capricious projects” undertaken in the past four years.
A footbridge had long been promised, as former Transport Minister Jesmond Mugliett said it would be up by 2007. The issue was discussed in Parliament last year when Labour MP Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca presented a motion asking the government to solve the problem.
The motion was defeated and the solution being implemented now, 19 months later, is not the footbridge but a detour.