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Traffic plan for Mrieħel ‘obstacle course’ will ease headaches

Ring road will be opened around the industrial area

Photos: Mark Zammit Cordina

Photos: Mark Zammit Cordina

Photo: Central Business District FoundationPhoto: Central Business District Foundation

The Mrieħel industrial area is set to finally see some order with the launch of a new traffic management plan, which will include enforcement officers from September.

The area often seems like an obstacle course for the 6,000 employees and thousands of clients who drive through it, with some two-way roads clogged with cars parked on both sides and delivery vehicles unloading merchandise.

This is set to change, with some roads to become one way and parking being limited to one side on other roads, making space for a route bus that will eventually be introduced to the area.

Central Business District Foundation CEO Keith Fenech explained that the plan was to open a ring road around the industrial area, which would require the use of two existing roads.

One of the main issues that often complicated things for the foundation, entrusted by the government and Mrieħel businesses to upgrade the area, was that some  privately-owned land spilled onto existing roads, he said. They could not even be tarmacked until they had been expropriated, Mr Fenech noted.

Mr Fenech noted, meanwhile, that there were plans in the pipeline for the foundation to be delegated executive powers.

As things stand, the foundation needs to lobby public authorities to kick off major projects, such as traffic management and stormwater relief projects.

Although, as a consequence, the foundation sometimes has to wait for the go-ahead from the authorities, it does find support from them and is calling on business operators to cooperate in a similar manner.

The foundation is lobbying for a longer private-public endowment agreement than the existing three-year one, and the government is proposing committing itself to another 10 years, Mr Fenech said.

Read: One man and Mrieħel

This extension would allow the foundation to kick off long-term projects such as updating street lighting and the provision of parking facilities.

It has earmarked an area that could host at least 200 cars which the foundation is willing to lease from a private owner, refurbish and issue an expression of interest for it to be run privately for three years.

This car park is to be temporary, until a separate piece of land is transformed into a long-term parking facility.

The uptake of parking slots at this temporary lot would help the foundation to understand how many people are willing to park and walk the rest of the way to their workplace or store.

Traffic management officers will be on site to guide commuters

It will, however, be pre-empted by a new traffic management plan, which was drafted in consultation with businesses in the area and is set to kick-off in September.

Throughout the first month, Transport Malta traffic management officers will be on site to guide commuters at major points, with changes mostly taking place on San Ġwakkin, Salib tal-Imrieħel and l-Imprendituri Streets.

After that, the foundation is planning to have fixed enforcement officers on site.

Times of Malta has in the past reported on how the industrial area, which hosts some 260 businesses and aspires to become an upmarket financial district, looks more like a neglected dumping ground, full of discarded waste, haphazard parking and construction work.

Following a ‘cleanup blitz’ that saw the collection of 186 tonnes of waste, Mr Fenech noted that rubbish was nowadays collected three times a week.

Businesses have picked up on the new cleaning routine, and the amount of waste collected has grown from 6,680 tonnes in January of 2017, when waste was collected once a week, to 74,420 tonnes in May 2018.

The rubbish collected has allowed the foundation to understand what kind of trash is thrown out and by whom, where and in what quantities.

With this detailed waste report in hand, the foundation will draw up a financial model for a holistic waste collection management plan.

The foundation has also met residents on two streets – namely Għadam and Għajn Streets, the Birkirkara local council and the General and Retailers and Traders Union.

Frustrated residents have complained to the Times of Malta that they are living in “Third World conditions”, and have to navigate around vehicles, trailers or car parts dumped on the pavement.

Most of the time they have to share the road with oncoming traffic and inhale spray-paint fumes from neighbouring shops.

The foundation has passed on the residents’ complaints to the businesses in the area through the GRTU, which is represented on the foundation’s board of administrators and which is trying to reach some common ground.

Some roads are to become one way, and parking will be limited to one side on others, making space for the introduction of a route bus.Some roads are to become one way, and parking will be limited to one side on others, making space for the introduction of a route bus.

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