Thanks for the extra help, but the roads are what they are
At the end of this first week of school (even though university and MCAST have not yet begun) one may draw the first tentative conclusions about the road situation under normal, everyday pressure.
We believe it has been the experience of most Maltese that the roads were clogged during the rush hours when schools are about to begin and when they finish.
This time, extra help was laid on around the most difficult intersections and junctions and from all reports, it seems they helped, well, as much as they could. But it takes more than that to make our roads easier for traffic.
It would also seem that people generally heeded the warnings and left earlier for school and work.
The weather was the usual unpredictable weather for this time of the year and thus there were more cars than usual on the roads.
Having said all this, is it just our impression or is it true that by the end of the week the traffic had eased and people were not finding all those snarl-ups they had feared?
At the end of the day, it is just a matter of
numbers: the number of cars on the roads. There is no way most of the roads can take that number of vehicles especially when they are all going in the same direction. The roads are what they are and no amount of tinkering with them will ever solve the problem. It is clear that nothing short of a comprehensive plan can ever hope to change things. This comprehensive plan necessarily has to be long-term, i.e. it cannot be done in one legislature. It may also include various long-term solutions such as the one mentioned recently – that of a light train or tram system. But it cannot stop at these panaceas.
The present works at the Kappara Junction also remind us that road works that aim to change the basic road network cost a lot of money and take a lot of time (and disrupt normal road usage).
There are more traffic nodes that need this kind of deep surgery and we cannot have just one that takes three of four years after which we tackle the next. Otherwise we will never finish. Now that the Budget is coming up, the Minister of Transport must argue for expenditure on roads to be increased from the present paltry sum to a more sustainable level. Up till now, ever since we joined the EU we have had substantial EU help but the time is coming when we must undertake spending on roads on our own.
There are some traffic nodes that we will have to unravel one by one – Msida, the Cemetery junction, the many roundabouts that end up trapping traffic instead of facilitating it. Maybe one idea would be to create underpasses instead of roundabouts and maybe we need not create an almighty hole just to do that. Maybe too we can learn from other people how to do it. Those of us who have been to Brussels, for example, can see how creating tunnels can ease what used to be very complicated road junctions. But when Monday comes and the schools open again we again face the same stress we have faced this week. Maybe we will get used to it and train ourselves to leave earlier.