A controversial plan to build a cable car to Jerusalem’s historic Old City passed a major hurdle Monday when the National Infrastructure Committee rejected a battery of petitions against the contentious tourism project.
The estimated $55 million project, which is being advanced by the Tourism Ministry, now requires approval by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in order to proceed.
The cable car would ferry tourists from the renovated First Station Complex on the site of the former train station in Jerusalem’s western half to the Old City in the east. The proposed route, which spans several verdant valleys and runs past the city’s iconic walls, faced vocal protestations from environmentalists, urban planners, architects, Palestinian residents, religious minority groups and others.
The Tourism Ministry has touted the cable car scheme as an attraction as well as a solution to traffic congestion and pollution around the Old City walls, as visitors to the capital break records, reaching the four million mark.
Boosters argue that the car will attract tourists and is the greenest, least disruptive, and most financially feasible way to get up to 3,000 visitors per hour from West Jerusalem to the the Western Wall, the most venerated site where Jews may pray.
Opponents, however, say that the plan is obtrusive and culturally and politically irresponsible, and that rather than solving the traffic problem it will simply shift it to the area of the First Station.