Entrance to Jerusalem closing to cars for 3 years in July, deepening traffic woe

Private vehicles to be barred from main thoroughfare into capital until 2022 due to construction; public transportation to continue as normal

Illustrative: vehicles in a traffic jam in Jerusalem, April 21, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: vehicles in a traffic jam in Jerusalem, April 21, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The entrance to Jerusalem will be blocked to private vehicles starting July 14, likely exacerbating traffic jams leading into the capital, as the government constructs a new entryway into the city.

The thoroughfare will remain closed for three years, although public transportation will continue to function as normal, according to a Monday report by Channel 12.

The construction project will shutter the area between the Chords Bridge and the International Convention Center. An alternative route will open that will pass through Herzl Boulevard and go around the government offices on its way to the city center.

Work began this week on the new road into Jerusalem, touted as one that will “free up the bottleneck” of traffic at the main entrance to the city and significantly mitigate congestion.

The new thoroughfare, Route 16, will branch out from the main Route 1 highway near the Motza bridge and cut through the mountain via tunnel, emerging in the city’s Bayit Vegan neighborhood. The road will thus provide a quick connection to the city’s southern parts as well as the Begin expressway that cuts through it.

Planners say the new road could shorten trips by as much as 20 minutes during rush hour.

Work is expected to conclude in November 2023.

“Within a few years it will be possible to enter and exit Jerusalem without passing through the main entrance to Jerusalem,” Transportation Minister Israel Katz told Channel 12. “This road is a central route that will allow arrival via tunnel into Jerusalem and to Begin Boulevard, and will free up the bottleneck at the entrance to Jerusalem.”

A March report from the state comptroller found that lackluster planning over the years has caused heavy congestion on roads and overcrowding on trains and buses in Israel.

The report said traffic volume had increased by almost 25 percent in the past decade and as a result, congestion on the roads is three and a half times above the average of countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), where Israel trails all others.

In Israel, there are 2,730 vehicles per kilometer of road, dwarfing the OECD average of 774.

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