Transport Minister and Tel Aviv mayor quarrel over Shabbat construction

Katz’s comments followed a petition demanding that the court rescind Katz’s decision in August to halt work on the construction of the bridge for six months.

October 4, 2018 13:56
2 minute read.
TEL AVIV’S congested Ayalon Highway in 2014.

TEL AVIV’S congested Ayalon Highway in 2014. . (photo credit: MOSHE MILNER / GPO)

Transportation Minister Israel Katz has accused Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai of making political capital out of a planned pedestrian and bicycle bridge across the Ayalon Valley, the construction of which has been stalled due to haredi objections to work on Shabbat.

Katz’s comments come following a petition to the High Court of Justice by the Tel Aviv Municipal Council filed on Wednesday demanding that the court rescind Katz’s decision in August to halt work on the construction of the Yehudit Bridge for six months. The planned bridge will connect Yigal Alon Street and the Montefiore neighborhood.

Katz said snidely that Huldai was in a tight race for re-election in the Tel Aviv mayoral elections in October and that he was therefore breaking out new “initiatives” to regain momentum.

Despite Katz’s claims, a recent poll showed Huldai with an eight-point lead over his closest rival.

“Instead of allowing the advancement of important public transport initiatives which have been delayed by him [Huldai], the Tel Aviv mayor is trumpeting the issue of the political bridge on the eve of municipal elections,” said Katz.

The minister said that the Ayalon Highways company would erect the bridge “at the appropriate time and in an appropriate manner,” and in accordance with the policies of the Transportation Ministry.

He also repeated his claim that he had frozen the construction of the bridge due to a need to electrify a section of the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv high speed rail running through the wadi.

The Tel Aviv municipality filed its petition on Wednesday because it said that despite numerous efforts to obtain an explanation from the ministry, no one had yet explained why the work was stopped.

The petition requests that the court suspend the minister’s decision and order Ayalon Highways to continue the construction work in accordance with the previous schedule until a final ruling on the petition is issued.

The Tel Aviv Municipality together with Ayalon Highways has planned the footbridge across the Ayalon to connect the west and east of the city divided by the highway and railroad tracks, to make it easier for pedestrians to reach either side and reduce road traffic in so doing.

The construction of the bridge requires closing the highway, and the project planners had scheduled construction work for it over six consecutive Saturdays beginning in August.

The Tel Aviv Municipality claims in its petition that the suspension of the construction work by Katz is not legal since he does not have the authority to issue such an order, especially regarding construction work on Shabbat.

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