The main highway leading from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem reopened in both directions Friday morning after an overnight closure, bringing into operation new tunnels and an interchange expected to drastically slash travel time to the capital and cut out a treacherous, winding part of the road.
Route 1 was shut from 10 p.m. Thursday as engineers put the final touches on the new stretches of the highway.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu officially opened the Harel Tunnels on Thursday, calling it “a historic moment for the road to the capital,” noting that this was the best version yet of a road that has served generations of pilgrims for centuries.
“The Harel Tunnels that we are inaugurating, together with a bridge that eliminates the dangerous curve, which they called the curve of death — and with the train that will soon run on these tracks — all these will provide a boost for Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony also attended by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
According to estimates by the Transportation Ministry, the tunnels and bridge are expected to cut travel time from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to about 30 minutes (from about 50) if there is no traffic congestion.
The Transportation Ministry and Netivei Israel — National Transport Infrastructure Company announced that Route 1 would be shut to traffic from Latrun to Ginot Sakharov in both directions ahead of the reopening of the Harel Interchange with new tunnels and a new bridge at the Motza Interchange.
The new Harel tunnels, 800 meters in each direction, were built underneath the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion to alleviate congestion.
In response to a petition to the High Court by Mevasseret residents to delay the opening of the tunnels — amid concern of reduced access — the deputy CEO of the Engineering and Development Branch of Netivei Israel, Yossi Halevi, said Thursday that once the Harel Interchange is reopened with the new changes, “residents of Mevasseret will celebrate.”
Speaking to Israel Radio, Halevi said that all access to Mevasseret would be maintained and the idea behind the changes was a “balance between flow and access.”