Residents above Highway 65 (Wadi Ara) will now have a shorter trip to and from home as section 18 of Highway 6 was opened to traffic on Monday evening. The newest section of the Trans-Israel highway, stretching from the Iron junction to the Ein Tut junction, cost NIS 1 billion. An unprecedented NIS 400 million of that sum, or 40 percent, was spent on environmental aspects of the road, the company said. The country's first toll road cuts travel time significantly between various destinations from just past Kiryat Gat on its southern end, and now to Ein Tut on its northern one. The company plans to continue extending the road north to Kabri and south to the Negev Intersection near the designated IDF training base. During the planning process, environmental groups had lodged protests arguing that section 18 would harm some of the beautiful landscapes in the area. However, a Supreme Court ruling went against them and construction began. However, the company said it had done its best to minimize the damage. They listed a variety of intensive efforts, such as a plan which stressed the minimum interference needed for the road, to tunneling under three kilometers of the 17 kilometer section, maintaining the view, landscaping the sides of the road, and building a series of pathways and bridges for animals to cross the highway. "Israeli drivers can expect a unique driving experience which brings into the car the amazing landscape through which they are traveling. It is definitely the transportation infrastructure project with the highest ecological and environmental standards ever. Israel is entering an increased infrastructure building phase and it is important that already during the planning and brainstorming processes the environment and standard of living be an equal factor with other professional factors. The state should adopt 'section 18 standard' as the official [environmental] standard for infrastructure projects," Nehama Sneh, chairwoman of Hozei Israel, said in a statement. Moreover, the company mentioned that excavated earth and sand from the construction had gone to fill in a nearby landfill and turn it into a park, while a promenade was built along the Barkan Stream, a parking lot was paved and a way station for dry waste was constructed. In addition, the sand and local flora were rehabilitated along the highway's edges. Investing in roads in general, however, as opposed to public transportation raises important environmental questions. By building more roads, the country and the company are essentially encouraging the personal car culture, and all of the pollution which goes along with it, at the expense of more environmentally friendly options like public transportation. At the same time, proponents would argue that the road connects more of the periphery to the center, thus easing the lives of Israel's poorer citizens, and is therefore worth the environmental cost, especially if the company invests in minimizing the damage.