Has the opening of Road 9, the bypass road at the entrance to Jerusalem, solved one traffic problem only to create another? And is the newly marked public transportation lane on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway about to become a "fast" toll lane for those with the money to pay for driving on it? Road 9, the 3.5-km., NIS 500 million, four-lane expressway, which opened on July 17 after a delay of two months, runs from Motza past Beit Iksa to Ramot, avoiding the entrance to the city. It was built to alleviate the severe traffic jams, sometimes stretching all the way out to Motza, when coming into the city during the morning rush hours. But now some commuters are telling In Jerusalem that the road is creating traffic jams for those leaving the city during the afternoon rush hours. "All I can say is that since the opening of Road 9, while the morning commute has improved greatly, in the afternoons we have found ourselves caught a number of times in serious traffic jams when trying to exit Jerusalem," says Tali Dahan, who together with her husband, commutes daily into town from Beit Zayit. The traffic jams are the result of a bottleneck created where Road 9 merges into Highway 1, the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway near Motza. At this point, Road 9 narrows into one lane and from there drivers must merge into Highway 1. "This creates jams on Highway 1 that have cars backed up to Ginot Saharov and sometimes even to the gas stations at the entrance to Jerusalem," Dahan claims. "On the days this has happened, I could see no accidents or stalled vehicles that could account for this. The only answer is the Road 9 merger. The city has spent half a billion shekels to solve one jam but has created another one on the other side." Jerusalem Municipality spokesman Gideon Schmerling said in response: "Road 9 has significantly decreased traffic jams at the entrance to Jerusalem and made it easier for those coming in and going out of the city. Naturally, where two main roads merge into one, there are traffic slowdowns. An inspection carried out by the city at rush hour did not find any traffic jams out of the realm of the acceptable." Toll Lane on Highway 1 Signs have recently been posted and yellow lines drawn on Highway 1, the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, designating the left lane going into the city from Motza upward as a public transportation lane. The Transportation Ministry is reportedly going to put out a tender enabling this public transportation lane to also serve as a "fast" toll lane into town . The municipal spokesman's office told In Jerusalem that the opening of Road 9 and the decrease in traffic now entering the city via the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway "is enabling allocating one lane for public transportation in order to encourage this mode of travel. The left lane has been marked... for public transportation only... It is clear that with a new road, especially one that is a main artery, drivers need time to become acquainted with and adjust to it... Therefore, at this time, there is no enforcement [of the transportation lane]. But after a short period of adjustment, the police will begin enforcing this." As for the toll lane, Mayor Uri Lupolianski sent a strongly worded letter to Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz on August 2 ruling out in no uncertain terms his agreement to a fast toll lane. "The significance of this decision is that those with money in their pockets will be able to get into the city without being held up in traffic," he said. "In my opinion, this proposal is totally unacceptable. There should be a public transportation lane in order to promote and encourage public transportation, which decreases traffic and air pollution. But it is unacceptable that the entrance to the capital of the State of Israel will be jammed for the simple people while Mercedes, Volvos and other luxury cars of the wealthy race past them. "The State of Israel, which has ever-widening social gaps, does not need to encourage a step that will only emphasize and perpetuate such gaps. At the entrance to our capital, there should be equal access for all visiting our city."

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