Minister of Finance Avigdor Liberman and Minister of Transport Merav Michaeli announced today their plan for the cabinet to approve the widening of Road 6 (Cross Israel Highway) as part of the 2023 budget. An extra lane will be added in each direction of the toll highway between the Kessem Interchange in the center of the country and the Ein Tut Interchange in the north.
This means there will be four lanes in each direction from Kessem to the Iron Interchange and three lanes in each direction between Iron and Ein Tut. The new lanes will give preference to buses and cars with three or more people. As part of the project, a new interchange will be built at Beit Nehemia to relieve congestion between the Nachshonim and Ben Shemen Interchanges.
Michaeli said, "Since I have assumed the job, I have declared my plans to reverse the pyramid and put public transport at the top of the agenda as well as ridesharing, the Negev and the Galilee, and this is what I am doing. The expansion of Road 6 with a public transport and ridesharing lane is good news for the residents of the north and those traveling on public transport and ridesharing. This is another travel option for everybody."
But this is perpetuating rather than reversing the pyramid. Widening Road 6 has been discussed for years by the Ministry of Transport. The strategic aim of the highway was to be a road for longer-distance journeys but over the years the addition of interchanges has increasingly made it a road for local traffic in contradiction to its original purpose, and the congestion has mounted while suburbs have been built alongside the highway.
Before expanding Road 6, government ministries had intended examining the impact of the eastern railway line, which is planned to remove much of the freight trucks from the highway, and in terms of traffic on Road 444, which runs alongside Road 6 in the center of the country. But the contract with the Road 6 franchisee ends in a few years and so that the state can bear the heavy cost of expanding the highway, it was decided to extend the concession in exchange for participating in the financing of the project.
So in summing up the budgets of the two ministries it was decided that due to the high level of traffic that will be added to these lanes and as part of the negotiations with the franchisee, building new interchanges will be examined at Daniel and Beit Nechemia, as well as more rest areas, which will be brought for cabinet approval. The estimated cost of the Road 6 expansion project to be paid for by the franchisee is NIS 3.5 billion.
Presenting this project as promoting public transport is misleading. Road 6 does not have enough buses to justify building a public transport lane and so in order to justify it they have added vehicles that have three or more people. Supposedly moving buses and some cars to another lane will make room for more cars on the existing lanes. If they really did want to reverse the pyramid, it would already be possible to reserve one land for buses and cars with many passengers.
Adding lanes does not relieve congestion
TransIsrael CEO Dan Shenbach sums things up well from the point of view of the franchisee and the Ministry of Transport when he said, "Over 200,000 vehicles travel daily on the stretch of the highway between the Kessem Interchange and Ein Tut. The additional lane will allow the improvement of the level of service on Road 6 and reduce traffic congestion during peak hours."
However, international research and experience has shown that adding lanes does not result in relieving congestion. Induced demand is a situation in which increasing supply of a certain product also leads to increasing its demand and increasing the product. In other words, adding and expanding roads contributes to increasing traffic and the number of cars through journeys that are added and the suburbanization that the expansion of roads creates.
The story of Road 6 reflects two substantial problems in transport planning in Israel. Firstly a lack of hierarchy on highways throughout the country with roads serving both local and national traffic, which thus fails to serve either national or local traffic due to the collapse of capacity. Secondly the planning of suburbs alongside the highway which is part of a policy of investing both in the car and public transport, while transport experts have been claiming for years that in order to persuade people to move to public transport, it has to be competitive with the car and preferable to it. Investing in both public transport and the car perpetuates the disparity."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on May 11, 2022.
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