Jerusalem’s new southwestern entrance will enhance access to the capital from next week when Road 16 linking Road 1 at Motza to Givat Shaul and the Begin Highway at Byte Street opens to traffic. But can the city cope with the extra cars flowing into its already jammed roads?
The six kilometer road includes four tunnels, seven bridges and three interchanges at Motza, Ravida (Givat Shaul) and Byte (between Ramat Beit Hakerem and Givat Mordechai). The speed limit on the road will be 80 kilometers per hour.
The road has been built for the Ministry of Transport by Netivei Israel - The National Transport Infrastructure Co. at a cost of NIS 2.5 billion, including 20 years of maintenance. The tender for construction and maintenance was won by Shapir-Pizzarotti, a company owned in equal shares by Shapir Engineering (TASE: SPEN) and Italian company Impresa Pizzarotti.
The project has been completed more than a year ahead of schedule, according to Shapir-Pizzarotti the timetable was brought forward due to accelerated works during the Covid pandemic. The highway will shorten journey times to Jerusalem’s western and southern suburbs and it is estimated that it will lighten congestion on the existing entry highways into Jerusalem from the west - Road 1 through the Arazim Tunnel and Begin Highway, and Road 333 (formerly Road 1), the main entrance to western Jerusalem.
The new highway has been planned for many years and its completion contradicts the latest transport approach by the Jerusalem Municipality, which makes pedestrians and public transport the top priority. Yet Road 16 has no public transport lanes, few bus lines, and encourages use of cars.
"Moving the traffic from one place to another"
Prof. Galit Cohen Blankshtain, head of the Federmann School of Public Policy in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Department of Geography explains, "Adding a highway can divert traffic from one place to another, and in the case of Road 16, instead of vehicles coming from the west entering via Ginot Sakharov or Binyanei Ha’ooma, they will enter and travel to the southwest of the city. In practice, over the past 40 years, the entrance to the city has been moving further out - once it was Binyanei Ha’ooMa, then Ginot Sakharov, and then Road 9 (down to the Arazim tunnel) and now it is moving further out to channel traffic in a development that won’t solve the jams."
She points out that adding highways adds vehicles to travel on them, so that congestion only grows. However, in certain situations building new roads is required in order to complete the transport system of the network. "In Jerusalem," she says, "There has been an attempt to disperse the entrances to the city in order to reduce congestion at the city’s entrance but because this creates more demand, diverting traffic does not prevent adding more trips." She stresses that transport models are based on existing demand, without examining the additional, hidden demand that will be added by opening the road.
With those models, she forecasts that congestion will reach its peak at the Ravida Interchange. On top of that, while the new road may make it easier to get into the city, it will make it harder to get out of it. "Both Road 16 and Road 9 (Arazim Tunnel) merge near the same place. So while those who live in Beit Hakerem and Kiryat Hayovel will benefit from the road, it will also create a lot of traffic and a lot of traffic jams. This is the schizophrenia of Jerusalem, which wants to encourage public transport use and invests a lot in it, and also does not stop building roads, so that the likelihood that someone will drive on them, leave their car in the parking lot and enter by public transport, is small."
15 Minutes Public Transportation Alliance chairman Yossi Saidov says the new road is an eyesore. "12,000 new cars come onto Jerusalem’s roads each year. The new road will encourage the use of cars and paralyze the city’s jammed streets. The city is also developing infrastructures for cars like highways and parking lots and the costs are astronomical, while public transport is being developed slowly. Meanwhile this policy is paralyzing and harming everyone - journeys, drivers, pedestrians and mainly the city’s economy and future."
"Jerusalem needs to add a ring road
In contrast to the opponents, Beit Shemesh city engineer Inbar Weiss claims that Jerusalem needs a ring road, part of which would be Road 16. "In order to go into and come out of neighborhoods without passing through the city this is an important route but it is difficult to create it because there is the green line to the east and a very valuable ‘green’ landscape to the west. Meanwhile, Begin Highway has completely collapsed because it is both a ring route and an urban route. Road 16 is a piece of the puzzle and each piece like this helps. It is unreasonable that Jerusalem should have just one entrance and the highway links up to park and ride facilities and the future light rail system."
She adds that Beit Shemesh is very connected to Jerusalem in terms of its residents, economy and employment, and so traffic improvements in Jerusalem will help Beit Shemesh. But Weiss warns that the opening of Road 16 should have been kept on hold for two years because, it will become jammed with cars because there will be no extra roads ready at the other end inside Jerusalem.
Adam Teva V'Din head of planning Yael Dori says that the new road has destroyed a swathe of the Jerusalem Forest, without any coordination with the urban traffic masterplan. When the road was being built, Adam Teva V'Din lodged an objection that it would have no public transport lane. She says, "If there is a fast short cut, why should only private vehicles benefit from it? The damage to the landscape illustrates visually how random it is to add highways that ultimately don't contribute anything.
Jerusalem Municipality VP, head of the city transport masterplan team Danny Givon dismisses claims that there is a contradiction between the policy of promoting public transport and building new roads. "This is a plan from the late 60s that has undergone an evolution. There are also ring roads in other cities around the world.
"In Jerusalem's city center there are a dozen pedestrianized roads and a reduction in the number of cars. We will restrict traffic even more and free up the streets for pedestrians. Reducing the traffic in the city center and other routes will be possible if we divert the traffic to bypass routes."
According to Givon the capacity for Road 16 is 4,000 vehicles an hour, on the assumption that the speed of journeys won't be effected, even though there are only several thousand parking places in the city's planned park and ride facilities. Another problem is that the new light rail lines will only be completed in 2030, while the option of a car is available now. Givon says, "The policy is to encourage public transport, but it is not one-dimensional and not every road harms public transport. In this case it will help us prioritize public transport within the city."
Prof. Blankshtain stresses, "A city that does not allow people to enter it by car will die, but it needs to manage it and understand the costs. Investing in public transport is the way to reduce the entry of vehicles, but if at the same time roads are added - the impact of public transport is moderated because people constantly compare options and choose between alternatives. The city has not categorically decided that this is what it wants to do: reduce the entry of cars."
Netivei Israel - The National Transport Infrastructure Co. claims that the new road will facilitate a better flow of traffic into Jerusalem and that to better promote public transport, it will examine extending the public transport lane on Road 1. The company says that when the tender for Road 16 was published in 2015, no examination was made on the option of putting a public transport lane on the new road. The Ministry of Transport declined to comment.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on August 24, 2022.
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