The road to recovery

Is the Hadassah Ein Kerem campus the newest victim of "Asphalt Zionism?"

hadassah 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
hadassah 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Improvements were made to the temporary two-way bus and ambulance route between the student center and the medical school on the Ein Kerem campus only after a Hadassah Medical School professor suffered a head injury. The professor, who preferred to remain anonymous, evidently fell out of sheer confusion at the barely perceptible shift in levels between vehicle and pedestrian thoroughfares. Since the incident last Thursday, clearer lines have been painted on the road. But pedestrians are arguing that conditions around the medical school have hit an all-time low since October 21, when work started on the campus's main one-way circular road as part of the overall construction of the new commercial center. Says Hadassah Medical School's Prof. Elihu Richter, "They put black and white separation markings in, but still need a fence to separate the midway traffic island from the road. But still the whole thing was designed in a chaotic, unsafe way," says Richter, who adds sloppily poured asphalt, a lack of streetlights, speed bumps, and even arrows marking the direction of traffic to the list of pitfalls in the campus's current traffic system. "There is a need to redesign the whole transportation system with a view to the safety of both drivers and pedestrians in the entirety of the Hadassah Hospital college campus," he adds. The Ein Kerem campus is no stranger to less than desirable temporary traffic conditions due to construction. The campus has undergone nearly constant renovation since the '60s. Then, in the mid '90s the Mother and Child Center was built, and in 2002 the Center for Emergency Medicine (CEM) was revamped. The joint Hadassah-Hebrew University Biotechnological Park is next on the list. Each project has resulted in traffic-related inconveniences. "We try to make temporary arrangements as safe as possible," says Ron Krumer, director of the External Relations Division of the Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem, who adds that the campus has even consulted safety specialists to this effect. "But everything in terms of infrastructure is very limited because we are situated on a hill." Bringing an end to the usual one-way flow of traffic, the building work necessitated the reassignment of one-way traffic in the opposite direction, the addition of the two-way section between the student center and medical school (primarily to permit the access of emergency vehicles between the hospital and helipad), and most significantly - the closure of the main campus entrance to all vehicles except ambulances (including all vehicles carrying patients in need of emergency service), public buses, internal campus shuttles, supply trucks, and private cars with permits. All other vehicles must now enter the campus through the lower entrance to the lower level parking area, where - as previously - a shuttle takes drivers to their desired location on campus. This is particularly inconvenient when it comes to emergencies. Although all emergency vehicles share open access to the CEM, patients - including women in labor - who arrive there by car have to be dropped off while their drivers find a parking place. "I know there are complaints because some people don't like new things and when ... changes occur, they complain. But it's part of the ongoing process of the overall reconstruction of the campus," says Krumer, who adds that he has received just as many letters of praise suggesting the campus make the temporary traffic set-up permanent. According to Krumer, the temporary conditions - which he estimates will last only six to eight weeks - will result not only in access to the new commercial center, but also in improved access to the main entrance of the hospital. Richter points to another dimension to the problem. He calls it "Asphalt Zionism." "To me, these current traffic problems are part of a much larger environmental problem - the tremendous amount of misplaced resources in Israel diverted towards use of the car," he says. On the Ein Kerem campus, Asphalt Zionism refers to the huge amount of land set aside for parking. "Instead of offering a shuttle service between parking lots, they should reduce parking lot sizes and offer a shuttle service from other parts of Jerusalem - or from Mevaseret," Richter argues.