Central Link Project would improve air quality – EIA

An Environmental Impact Assessment into a contested large-scale road project between Ta’ Qali and Attard has found that the plans would lead to improved air quality in the area, Infrastructure Malta said on Wednesday.

In a statement, Infrastructure Malta said that an EIA – which has yet to be published – had also found that the route would end up in complete gridlock within 10 years if it remained as it is, without being upgraded.

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Authorities’ plans for the route, dubbed the Central Link Project, have run into staunch opposition from residents and environmental lobbies, who say procedures have been short-circuited to push through a project of dubious benefit.

Infrastructure Malta, on the other hand, says the €55 million project will halve travel times through the congested area, improve air quality and add facilities for alternative means of transport.

They say the new road would follow the same route as the four-lane bypass planned in 2006, but would use less than half the land originally earmarked for its development.

In a statement on Wednesday, Infrastructure Malta said it had submitted the independently-drafted EIA studies to environmental and planning authorities, which are considering the Central Link Project application.

It highlighted some of the EIA findings, saying it had found that plans would require 57% less agricultural land than the amount originally earmarked in a similar road upgrade proposal planned 13 years ago.

The EIA, Infrastructure Malta said, found that if the road network was not upgraded, morning and afternoon travel times in the area would increase by 2.8 times and 4.4 times respectively by 2030, and by 8.1 and 7.8 times in 2045.

The air quality study, based on 2018 air monitoring in several locations along the route, showed the effect of this gridlock situation on the area’s air quality.

If the project was not implemented, particulate matter (PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions in the area, including Attard and Balzan, would increase by 104% and 35% in 2030 and by 229% and 86% 15 years later.

PM10 and NO2 are the two main pollutants linked to road transport emissions. By eliminating existing bottlenecks and congested junctions, the project would lead to average PM10 reductions of 42% by 2030 and 60% by 2045, even when considering future transport demand. NO2 emissions would be lowered by 15% in 2030 and 30% in 2045, the infrastructure authority said.

If approved, the Central Link Project will see authorities rebuild 13 junctions, removing four traffic lights systems and adding over seven kilometres of new lanes along a 4.3 kilometre road corridor. The project also introduced facilities for alternative modes of travel, including safe pedestrian footpaths, improved bus lay-bys and the longest segregated cycle track in the Maltese Islands.

SOURCE: Times of Malta