Israel's network of inter-city roads and thoroughfares is growing at a rapid pace with the Ministry of Transportation handing out NIS 10 billion this year for projects to improve the nation's roadway infrastructure The large budget tops last year's financing by almost NIS 3b. with the majority of additional funding dedicated to a project to separate railroad crossings from intersecting roads, explained a ministry spokesman. Such crossings have been the sites of devastating accidents between vehicles and trains in recent years. "This is a huge project that involves numerous companies and is the main cause for the increased budget this year," said the spokesman. One of the companies involved in the construction to bypass the crossings is the Ayalon Highways Company, which received NIS 1b. from the ministry this year to embark on an ambitious agenda including 130 projects worth a total of NIS 1.7b. - more than double its 2006 budget, the company said this week. Local authorities are subsidizing the majority of the remaining costs. Ayalon's undertakings consist of carryovers from earlier projects as well as new endeavors, among which are the opening of new arteries and passageways. Specific development plans include the construction of a bridge at the Galilot Junction to connect Highway 2 from the north with Highway 5 towards the east and the Ayalon South. The inclusion of earlier projects in the new budget is not a sign that the company neglected its previous obligations, a spokeswoman explained, but a rather a regular step in the annual budget planning process. "Even if a project is planned in advance to last two or three years, you have to approve it again each year," she said. Separately, the Israel National Roads Company reported a 300% growth in the number of projects completed in 2006 compared to 2005. Operating on a NIS 1.7b. budget last year, the Roads Company met 96% of its 2006 obligations, the company said. The roads company, which handles nearly 7,000 km. of inter-city roads is charting a five-year plan to complete major projects within the country, most noticeably a bypass road that will connect Haifa directly to Acre, allowing drivers to follow the most straightest route between the two cities. "This is a first for Israel that we have a plan for five years and not one-year and then the next year and the next," said spokesman Avi Shmoul.