Christine M. Watterson Maó
A committee of experts, set up by the three political forces in the Island Council to determine the basics for an Island Road Plan, has decided that the Me-1 will not be turned into a dual carriageway; the main road across the island will remain as at present, one lane in each direction.
The eight experts forming the committee have analysed the main road from various aspects, taking as a premise the two options in current thinking: that the road be left as it is but with improvements in places; or that it be widened throughout its length to allow two lanes in each direction.
The resulting data regarding the volume of traffic, the number of heavy vehicles using the road compared to normal traffic, the use of public transport, and the safety level, led the experts to conclude that "it is not considered necessary to widen the road to four lanes for criteria of a functional nature, the volume of traffic, cost and environmental impact".
The experts have followed this declaration with technical recommendations for improving the current road, such as identifying the stretches where the road could be widened to three lanes and improving the access at junctions. Measures that they consider vital include: increasing the road surface to solve the problems of slow-moving vehicles; reducing the number of access points; installing safety, control and information systems; and promoting the use of public transport.
With respect to the volume of traffic, the experts noted little increase in the number of vehicles using the road which, combined with the improvement in the public transport system, left the Me-1 with margin to absorb more traffic and therefore not in need of turning into a dual carriageway.
A study was also carried out into the length of journeys made by drivers, which showed the majority to be short trips, only 3% driving the complete distance between Maó and Ciutadella. Comparing the time taken for the whole journey on the current road (maximum speed 90 kph) and on a dual carriageway (maximum 100 kph) showed a difference of only 8 minutes.
Road safety was another area to be studied. The experts stated that the cost of making the 180 junctions on the Me-1 safe would be very high. Additonally a dual carriageway would result in vehicle being driven at higher speeds, thereby increasing the severity of accidents. On the other hand, retaining a single cariageway in either direction and carrying out various improvements would result in better safety for everyone.
Island Road Plan
The conclusions drawn by the committee of engineers will form the basis for the Island Road Plan, work on which will start within a fortnight, and which, according to the President of the Island Council, Marc Pons, should be presented during the first quarter of 2009.