Jerusalem's reputation for the ludicrous was enhanced on May 20, when Jerusalem District Court ruled against the opening of a new expressway that was planned to relieve the perpetual traffic jam at the entrance to the capital. As reported in In Jerusalem ("Warning: Construction ahead," May 18), the road was scheduled to open on May 21. The court was responding to a petition by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, charging that Moriah, the municipal agency that built Road 9, failed to construct passages enabling wildlife to cross the busy road without being hit by cars, an environmental component required by the project's contract. It will be at least mid-July before the animal crossings can be completed, and Moriah spokesman Yehoshua Mor-Yosef did not know when the work would be finished. The new north bypass road, built over the past six years at a cost of NIS 500 million, was to have been dedicated May 21 in a festive ceremony with the participation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and Mayor Uri Lupolianski. The divided four-lane expressway curves and tunnels east from Motza past Beit Iksa to Ramot, where it reconnects with Route 1. From there, Route 1 continues around the city to the north and east before descending to Ma'aleh Adumim and the Dead Sea. "If the Moriah Company had related in recent months to the requests of the SPNI and the Interior Ministry as it should have, then it would have been possible to avoid the present situation," said Nir Papai, head of the SPNI's preservation department. "We hope that the lesson will be learned for future projects." "We express sorrow over the damage being caused to the residents of Jerusalem and those coming there because of the delay in opening Road 9. The company will honor the court's decision and continue to rehabilitate the landscape in the area," read an official statement released by Moriah. The delay in opening Road 9 will also impact the further construction of the Jerusalem ring road. The eastern link of that beltway will continue south along the eastern edge of the city, following the West Bank security fence. This segment will lead to the Nahal Daraja valley between East Talpiot and Sur Bahir where it will join Derech Moshe Baram. The proposed western link will continue south and west from the junction of Roads 1 and 9, crossing the east side of Mount Heret (via a bridge and a tunnel), and passing below the Hadassah-University Medical Center, Ein Kerem, before joining Route 39 in the Refaim Valley. Here another new highway, the Western Train Road, would complete the circle. However with the cancellation of the Safdie Plan for the development of west Jerusalem, it is not clear if the western link of the Jerusalem beltway will ever be built. An alternative route would use Sderot Menachem Begin to form the western side of the capital's ring road.

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