Parts of J'em’s Jaffa Road to close permanently in 2 weeks

Latest estimated start date for light rail system: 08/08/11; buses will be rerouted to Hanevi’im, Agrippas and Bezalel streets.

jaffa road construction 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
jaffa road construction 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
After more than 100 years as one of Jerusalem’s main thoroughfares, portions of Jaffa Road will close to all traffic except for the light rail as early as two weeks from now, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The area from the Mahaneh Yehuda shuk until Kikar Tzahal, near the Municipality, will close to traffic on January 11 or 14, according to the CityPass consortium.
After Jaffa Road is closed to traffic, all of the buses will be rerouted to Hanevi’im, Agrippas and Bezalel streets.
Shmuel Elgrabli, the spokesman for the Jerusalem Transportation Master Plan, says that the city will try to ensure that new bus stops are no more than 120 meters away from the old bus stops, but he acknowledges that the next few months, when buses are banned from the street and the light rail is not operational, will be “a very difficult period.”
The narrow Hanevi’im and Agrippas streets are already choked with traffic, which the winding, two-lane roads can barely handle.
In early October, a three-car accident on Rehov Hanevi’im killed six-year-old Farid Abu Ktesh and seriously injured his father, sister and two others.
The parents association at his school, Lycée Français de Jérusalem, claims that 200 people have been injured in accidents on the road in recent years.
Merchants and community activists are incensed that at least 10 bus lines are supposed to crawl through Rehov Agrippas, or about 800 buses per day.
“Just look at how small it is, just two lanes; it’s going to be really problematic,” said Ifat Tzedkiyahu, who was working at her father’s store on Thursday, which sells specialty honey and olive oil. “People will have to suffer no matter what, but they need to think about what they can do to less affect people.”
The municipality is preparing itself for a rough few months.
“We’re going to have a more difficult time,” said Naomi Tsur, deputy mayor for environment and planning.
Tsur said that in the future, she is planning to build wider sidewalks on Hanevi’im, and hopes to see both streets become one-way streets in opposite directions. But those plans are far in the future.
“Our hands are tied until Jaffa is up and running,” she said.
The newest start date for the light rail is slated for August 8, 2011, CityPass said. The original start date for the light rail was January 2009. Then it was supposed to begin operations on April 7, 2010. The consortium blamed the most recent setback on arguments with the city over who would get the green light first at intersections, the trains or the cars.
To ease the burden on the downtown area, CityPass hopes to open the light rail in the Kikar Tzahal to Mahaneh Yehuda section on a trial basis for nine weeks between April and June. City residents would be able to take the light rail for a very low symbolic fee, both to help residents and encourage them to start depending on the new service.
The Jerusalem Transportation Master Plan and CityPass have had a tense relationship characterized by frequent court cases and litigation.
The Master Plan accuses City- Pass of needlessly lengthening the period of time when buses will be banned from Jaffa Road by refusing to do tests at night, when the road is less crowded.
CityPass countered that they will be holding tests at night during the time when the light rail is partially open between April and June. Meanwhile, the light rail needs around four months of testing on Jaffa Road before it can be partially opened to the public.
“Undoubtedly they could work at night and just have a few weeks of daytime testing and get the whole thing on the road,” said Tsur. “I’m waiting for this, we’re all waiting for this and anything that could make the time shorter and the public inconvenience less severe is welcome.”