The Finance Ministry has approved plans to widen Highway 40 in the northern Negev at a cost of NIS 220 million, reports www.mynet.co.il. The stretch of highway between Tsomet Ohalim and Tsomet Hanegev will be widened from two lanes to four in the project, a move that has been welcomed by the Negev Development Authority. According to the report, work is currently being carried out to widen Highway 40 between Tsomet Goral and Tsomet Ohalim at a cost of NIS 280 million. Negev Development Authority head Shmuel Rifman welcomed the approval, saying, "This is a very important decision that will have a dramatic effect on the development of the Negev." Rifman said that widening the road would open up metropolitan Beersheba southward and would improve the infrastructure required for the move of army bases south to Ir Habahadim, the new military city being built near Dimona. Meanwhile, the report also said the District Planning and Construction Committee has approved plans to widen and upgrade Highway 31, from Arad to Tsomet Shocket, at a cost of NIS 750 million. The planned work includes widening the road to two lanes, creating new interchanges, building safety rails along the length of the highway, and installing lighting at intersections, with the aim of enabling vehicles to travel at up to 100 kmh. Work is expected to begin in the next few months and is expected to take about two years.