Drivers beware: Roadworks to start soon on road to J'lem

Motorists can expect to suffer from several years of traffic jams.

UPGRADED Highway 1 shown in artist’s rendering 370 (photo credit: Youtube)
UPGRADED Highway 1 shown in artist’s rendering 370
(photo credit: Youtube)
Jerusalemites and their visitors are in for at least four years of traffic jams and headaches as the expansion to Highway 1 gets under way at the end of this summer.
The NIS 2.5 billion project, whose current end date is in 2016, will create three lanes in each direction from Sha’ar Hagai to the Sarkharov Gardens, a distance of 16.5 kilometers.
The main goal is to create a series of bridges and tunnels to eliminate the hairpin turns at the entrance to Jerusalem that cause dozens of traffic accidents each year.
Phase one of the project, 6.5 km. from Sha’ar Hagai to the Shoresh Interchange, will start at the end of this summer. This part of the project will cost NIS 300 million and is expected to take 3.5 years. The Neveh Ilan Interchange project is also expected to start sometime before the end of this year, which will pave 4.5 km. of new highway.
The project is funded by the Transportation and National Infrastructure ministries and the National Road Safety Authority.
Transportation Minister Israel Katz insisted the construction will cut 20 minutes off the travel time from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.
Architect Shai Baras, the general manager of the Israel National Roads Company, recommended that travelers use Highway 443 through the West Bank to north Jerusalem as an alternative route during the construction. In conjunction with the renovations to Highway 1, 443 will also be widened to deal with the expected increase of traffic.
The project has infuriated residents of Mevaseret Zion. The current plan for Highway 1 is to close the current two entrances to the suburb and create just one entrance and exit for the entire Mateh Yehuda region, which is home to 80,000 people in the towns of Abu Ghosh, Har Adar, Motza Illit and others.
“They’re going to destroy our lives and they’re going to destroy the town, and they’re doing it without thinking,” said Mevaseret Zion Mayor Arie Shamam, a 25-year-resident of the town. He said while the citizens understood that Highway 1 needs to be updated and supported the larger project, they opposed the decision to leave their community with just one exit and entrance. Shamam added that members of the Home Front Command supported his concern that in the event of a fire or terrorist attack the single entrance could prove catastrophic.
Last year, residents of Mevaseret Zion unsuccessfully petitioned the High Court of Justice to change the plan.
Shamam said they will continue to negotiate with the Transportation Ministry to try to build additional ramps or bridges from the new highway so they will have another entrance.
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel noted that the project will have an enormous negative effect on the Judean Mountain area, especially during construction. But the organization did not oppose the project because it was clear that this was the least destructive option, said Avraham Shaked, the general secretary of conservation for the Judean Mountain Region.
Shaked added that despite the destruction the highway will wreak on the surrounding area, there is one positive spot: the construction of a “natural bridge,” a bridge covered with plants and dirt and closed to motor traffic, which will be created for animals to cross the highway. Similar bridges have had success in other parts of the world, he said.