EU funds will only cover 2% of the cost of the reconstruction of the road leading from Victoria to Marsalforn, according to information submitted in Parliament today.
In response to a parliamentary question by MP Chris Said, Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri confirmed that two bids were made for the project: an €8.94 million bid by GP Gozo Consortium and a €12.5 million bid by Road Construction Co. Ltd. The offers are currently being evaluated, and once the contract is awarded, the project is set to be completed in 42 weeks.
The project will not only see the widening of the road between Victoria and Marsalforn, but will also involve the construction of a bypass linking Triq Patri Ġaċintu Camenzuli and Triq Ġorġ Pisani. The loss of agricultural land has been a source of controversy, as is the projected loss of trees.
Camilleri confirmed that 177 trees are set to be uprooted, of which 44 belong to protected species: 24 date palms, 11 cypresses and 9 maritime pines. Ten olive trees – which are also protected – are set to be transplanted. The rest are non-native species, primarily fast-growing Australian imports such as acacia and eucalyptus.
The minister also confirmed that the EU funding must be used up by the end of the year, but Said was bemused by the fact that this would only account for 2% of the expenditure. At that rate, he later observed in parliament, one questioned why the government even bothered to spend time and money to secure these funds.
Said also questioned the choice of architect for the project: Labour Party organisational secretary William Lewis. In a supplementary question, Said asked whether Lewis was chosen by direct order, but Camilleri was not in a position to respond.
Project to address dangers, structural problems
In response to another question on the project by Nationalist MP Kevin Cutajar, Camilleri mentioned two main reasons for this project.
One reason is the various structural problems found throughout the road, with parts caving in and with two old bridges in a precarious state.
But he also said that parts of the road were dangerous to motorists and pedestrians alike. The minister said that studies identified a number of dangerous curves and recommended an improvement of the road’s alignment.
Camilleri also said that in compensation for the loss of trees, over 120 indigenous trees would be planted, including Aleppo pines, African tamarisk and bay laurels.