City Gate to be demolished in March
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City Gate to be demolished in March

Video: Mark Zammit Cordina

City Gate will be demolished at the end of March to make way for the new entrance into Valletta, Infrastructure Minister Austin Gatt said today.

He said that the demolition of the Freedom Square Arcades, which started yesterday, was now picking up momentum and will continue over the coming days.

Strict health and dust abatement measures are being enforced to have the least impact on the area, the minister said, with the site having been closed off with new hoarding and water cannon being employed to keep the dust down.

Arrangements have also been put in place to keep the presence of heavy trucks on Valletta's streets down to the bare minimum and any trucks entering the city or leaving the construction site will be washed beforehand. Debris is being deposited down a chute to the ditch below City Gate. Project offices and workers' rest rooms are also being built in the ditch.

The demolition of the arcade and shops at Freedom Square will be followed by excavations of Freedom Square ahead of the construction of the new Parliament Building.

Meanwhile, workers will also be demolishing the police station and the Bank of Valletta offices in South Street, creating a new open space bordering South Street, which will also provide backstage facilities for the new open theatre that will be built on the ruins of the old Opera House.

The new open theatre will be completed before Parliament House.

Dr Gatt and officials from project management company Bovis said that the demolition of City Gate would be preceded by a new traffic management plan for Valletta with new access into the City from Marsamxett since the demolition of the Gate will also eliminate Pope Pius V Street, which leads from the area of the Central Bank across the top of City Gate to the area of St John Cavalier and Bakery Street.

Officials are also planning to 'surgically' demolish the bridge leading from the bus terminus to City Gate to ensure that access would, as much as possible, still be available for pedestrians. The current bridge will be replaced by another bridge which will be one-third the width of the present one.

Dr Gatt said the whole project was on time and the target remained for completion at the end of 2012.

The project will also include the creation of a garden down in the ditch below City Gate in January 2012, when some 140 parking spaces there will cease to exist. However, Dr Gatt said, new parking spaces will be made available through an extension of the park and ride and other parking spaces in Floriana including the area of the football ground, as well as in St James Ditch.

The project will also see the bus terminus moved from the current site to part of St James Ditch. Mepa is to discuss the proposals later this week.

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