Police, city catch flak for TA fireworks jam

Following an angry public response to massive traffic jams surrounding Tuesday evening's fireworks extravaganza in Tel Aviv, city leaders and police gathered over the weekend to discuss the lessons learned from the event. Senior police officers and City Hall officials reviewed the preparations that had been made for the fireworks display on the seaside promenade and examined the causes of the massive delays on urban and intercity roads that occurred as hundreds of thousands flocked to see the display. Both before and after the display, traffic on roads leading in and out of the city ground to a halt as drivers reported three-hour travel times between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Traffic jams extended beyond the Tel Aviv police district's boundaries. A debriefing by police and municipal officials revealed that the number of people who would come to view the fireworks had been seriously underestimated. Approximately 300,000 people attempted to watch the once-in-a-lifetime display. Police said major roads had been closed in advance of the gala event. As a result, immediately after the display concluded, tens of thousands flooded the newly reopened roads, in vehicles and on foot. Police said that officers in the streets faced "objective difficulties" in dispersing the resulting crowd in a "reasonable time." Tel Aviv police chief Cmdr. David Zur said that in advance of such an exceptional event, police work with the organizers to follow a clear set of directives, in hopes of preventing tie-ups. The measures include: closing roads leading to the event and setting up satellite "park-and-ride" sites; advance publication of closure and traffic changes; encouraging the public to utilize mass transit; and separate lanes for motor vehicles and for pedestrians. "The Tel Aviv District police will continue in its policy of cooperation with the Tel Aviv Municipality in planning large cultural events for the general public, but use the experience to lessen the objective 'price' paid by the public whenever there is a massive influx of people into an already-crowded metropolitan area," said a senior district officer. The fireworks display, one of the largest in the world, was the first event of Voila!, a project celebrating Israel-France relations. More than NIS 1 million was spent on the pyrotechnics spectacle, which was produced by internationally renowned French company Groupe F.