Controversial Tel Aviv footbridge over Ayalon opens

Yehudit Bridge  / Photo: Oron Holdings and Investment Group

The first pedestrian bridge over the Ayalon is also the only one of 10 bridges that has a bicycle lane.

Yehudit Bridge, which became a bone of contention last year between then-Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai because of work on the Sabbath, is opening. The bridge connects western and eastern Tel Aviv over the Ayalon and is 110 meters long and 11 meters wide. Its construction was approved in 2010 as the sole passageway between the Montefiore neighborhood in the west just south of Sarona and the Bitzaron neighborhood in the east.

Construction cost NIS 68 million, most of it paid for by the Tel Aviv municipality. The bridge connects Yigal Allon Street and Yehudit Boulevard near the construction site of a light rail station, so that the bridge can serve a larger number of pedestrians when the light rail Red Line begins operating. The bridge's objective is to make it possible to cross more easily and safely over the Ayalon Highway, and pedestrian paths and a lane for bicycles and scooters were paved for this purpose.

The Tel Aviv municipality hopes that once the light rail and the bridge are both operating, fewer people will travel to the developing business zone by car.

"The bridge is dramatically significant," says Ofir Cohen, who manages the transportation, traffic, and parking authority in the Tel Aviv municipality." "The city is unfortunately divided by the Ayalon strip, and this connection is one of the levers for improving mobility in the city."

Ayalon Highways Co. CEO Itamar Ben-Meir says, "Yehudit Bridge creates alternatives for cars in order to relieve road congestion."

Not the last bridge planned by the municipality

Tel Aviv currently has nine existing road bridges. Yehudit Bridge is the first bridge designed exclusively for pedestrians and bicycles. "In recent years, we realized that in order to achieve our transport vision, we have to create preference or adequate passage for pedestrians on all of the bridges. The tenth bridge, Yehudit Bridge, creates a passage exclusively for pedstrians, and thousands of people will use it daily."

The new bridge, however, does not reflect the best possible planning. Seen from above, it is clear how close its is to the Hashalom railway station through which 60,000 passengers a day travel, but there is nothing connecting the two. Someone wishing to reach the station has to pass through the crowded Hashalom Junction.

"It's a big and complex bridge," says Tel Aviv city architect Yoav David. "This link is a big project that will happen, but not in the next five years."

Another failure also involves the planning aspect. The bridge is thinly covered with wood for pedestrians, and large stones spread around it serve as benches for stopping and resting. However, there is no shade or shelter against the sun and rain, exactly as with the rest of the city's bridges. The Tel Aviv municipality says that shade solutions will be added later to the bridge.

Another problem concerns the bicycle path along the bridge, which peters off into a vehicle traffic artery at the end of Yehudit Boulevard, instead of continuing into the neighborhood. Nevertheless, this is the first bicycle path on the Ayalon bridges, and bicycle riders are happy about it. "There is finally some kind of solution for crossing the Ayalon. There are 300 meters of bridges crossing the Ayalon, and none of them provided for bicycles until now," says Israel Bicycle Association director Yotam Avizohar. "Accidents have already happened, and bicycle paths on these connections are critical. For us, this is big news. Now the critical point is a connection to the network on both sides of the bridge."

It is also clear to the Tel Aviv municipality that the bridge cannot be the sole solution for the growing burden on the city's crowded streets resulting from rapid development, when the average number of vehicles passing on the Ayalon Highway is 750,000 a day, making it Israel's most congested transport artery. In addition to other bridges in the approval stages and the project for covering the Ayalon Highway, the municipality emphasizes that some upgrading of the existing bridges is under consideration in order to make them more useable to pedestrians and safer for bicycles and scooters.

"Among other things, the Emek Bracha bridge is being planned, which will have room for pedestrians and bicycle, including shade, and a bicycle path is being promoted on Yitzhak Sade Street," says Ofir Cohen. "The Hashalom bridge (connecting the Azrieli mall to the Hakirya IDF base) is entering a process of work and renovation to make it more suitable for pedestrians and bicycle riders. We know that it serves thousands of users a day, and the conditions in the public spaces are currently not very good. A budget has already been received, and we’re creating shade there and bicycle and motorcycle parking solutions in order to widen the sidewalks and give pedestrians priority on the existing bridge. We don't know yet whether a bicycle path will be paved."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on January 19, 2020

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020

Yehudit Bridge  / Photo: Oron Holdings and Investment Group
Yehudit Bridge / Photo: Oron Holdings and Investment Group
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