Jerusalem's Calatravesty

A new campaign argues that the Bridge of Strings is wasteful, ugly and inconvenient.

bridge 88 (photo credit: )
bridge 88
(photo credit: )
How can a municipality that is so much in debt afford to spend NIS 170 million on a bridge?" asks opposition council member Nir Barkat. Two weeks ago Barkat launched Putting an End to the Monster, a campaign that that is set to raise public debate about the Calatrava bridge, a project that he believes the municipality mislead the public about intentionally. "There's a huge discrepancy between the projected image of the bridge that the municipality publicized and what it will actually look like," argues Barkat. "If they had shown the real size at the beginning of the planning process, it would never have passed. The fact that it's inaccurate is a travesty. If it was a building, I think people would want to know that there was a difference between a 15-story building [that the municipality image shows] and a 40-story building. That's what we are talking about here, a bridge the height of a 40-story building." In addition, Barkat argues that the bridge is becoming increasingly expensive almost by the day. "The first estimate put the cost at NIS 60 million to NIS 70m. It has since risen to NIS 170 million, and it's rising all the time. This is public, government spending. In a city that's racked by debt, that suffers from negative migration, such phenomenal sums cannot be spent on a bridge. They've been completely carried away by this." In response, city engineer Uri Shetreet commented to the Hebrew press that it is Barkat who is deliberately misleading the public, and that the picture the opposition council member is publicizing is "far from the reality" that will be built on the ground. Shetrit argues that Barkat has changed the shape, material and color of the bridge (from white to gray) in his projected image. "Instead of dealing with the core issues... the municipality has chosen to deal with sundries," countered Barkat. In Jerusalem contacted both the municipality spokesperson and Shetrit for further comment, but neither chose to reply. Price, size and color, however, aren't Barkat's only issues. He argues that the bridge isn't going to stop people leaving the city, and he has "yet to hear of someone" who will migrate to the capital as a result of it. What's more, those who do live in the capital will be grid-locked for a number of years while work is under way, he argues. "No adequate traffic alternative has been provided. Why hasn't the municipality waited for the completion of Road No. 9 from the Castel before digging up the entrance? There's no answer other than the fact that [Jerusalem Mayor Uri] Lupolianski wants as much completed before the next election as possible so that he can ride on his achievements. The fact that it will be impossible to drive here and live here doesn't seem to matter." But what alternatives does Barkat propose? Could there really be another, cheaper solution for the light railway that is designed to travel over on the proposed bridge? "There are solutions that would be tens of millions of shekels cheaper," says Barkat confidently, although he admits that he doesn't have concrete engineer's plans. "There are dozens of Calatrava bridges in the world. Even another one in Israel [being built in Petah Tikva]. The whole light railway project is costing this city an extortionate sum... and we're talking about one line so far. It's megalomania."