The tenders for building and operating three more fast lanes at the entrances to Tel Aviv will probably be published only late this year, the Ministry of Finance stated in response to a question from "Globes." The new timetable is a year behind the original timetable for this project, which is designed to get cars off the roads at the entrances to Tel Aviv.
The first fast lane in Israel, inaugurated in January 2011, connects the Shappirim interchange to Tel Aviv. The lane is considered successful because it gets thousands of cars off the crowded roads every morning. Transportation experts compare the effect of the fast lane in reducing congestion at the eastern entrance to Tel Aviv to that of a railway that would have cost the state treasury and the taxpayers billions. Shapir Engineering & Industry Ltd. (TASE:SPEN), which won a franchise to build the fast lane at the Shappirim Interchange, invested NIS 500 million and paid the state NIS 278 million in royalties for the revenue it expects from the toll lane for the 30-year franchise period.
Following the success of the fast lane, the state decided over three years ago to build three new fast lanes to relieve congestion at three places: the Shefayim Interchange, the Morasha Interchange, and Rishon Lezion. The pre-selection for companies to construct the project began in 2016. The process lasted six months and ended in March 2017 with six groups submitting bids for the tender.
The tender publication date set in the pre-selection phase was the third quarter of 2017, but the tender has yet to be published. The project, designed to dramatically relieve road congestion at the entrances to metropolitan Tel Aviv, has been held up in the Account General's tenders committee, and at best will be published in the fourth quarter of this year. The loss of time in the estimated NIS 5.5 billion project is critical. The project, which will take 3-4 years to finish from the time the tender is published, is still being delayed.
Despite past criticism from the Ministry of Transport, the public-private partnership method is being used for the project - a relatively simple one consisting of the construction of a lane, a parking lot, and a toll system. Some say that the current method of construction through tenders for private concerns only complicates the process and may even make it more expensive, because it lengthens the time needed to carry out the project.
The project will include parking for 11,000 vehicles in two parking lots at Shefayim and in Rishon Lezion and a network with 110 kilometers of fast lanes - toll roads that will include a network of 10 free shuttles in both directions between the parking lots and business centers in metropolitan Tel Aviv (similar to the current fast lane on Highway 1). Private vehicle owners will have to pay a toll for traveling in the fast lanes, while car pool travelers and public transportation can use them for free.
Current fast lane takes 8,000 cars off the road daily
The existing fast lane has dramatically changed the behavioral patterns of drivers, who have been educated to leave their cars and use special public transportation or resort to carpools. 1,000 carpool vehicles use the fast lane daily and the number of bus users on the lanes has increased by 1,500, according to Shapir Engineering, which operates the lane.
According to Shapir Engineering's figures, the fast lane gets 8,000 vehicles coming to Tel Aviv from the east off the road daily - 170,000 journeys a month. The fast lane was previously criticized as being for rich people, because of the high congestion fee paid by those using it at peak times. The lane's main success, however, is attributable to the park and ride parking lot accompanying it, from which there are free shuttles to the government complex in central Tel Aviv and the Ramat Gan Diamond Exchange. The state has been trying for years to double the capacity of the parking lot to 4,000 vehicles by building another storey, but negotiations on the matter with Shapir Engineering have yet to produce an agreement. As a result, the plan to expand the shuttle network to other destinations in Tel Aviv, including Rothschild Boulevard and Ramat Hahayal, is being delayed.
The toll varies according to congestion in the fast lane and the speed of traffic on it in order to give public transportation and carpools an advantage. The remaining capacity is designed for use by private vehicles traveling at least 70 kilometers an hour. The cost of the journey appears on electronic signs placed before the entrances to the lane in order to inform drivers about the cost in real time.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 23, 2018
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