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New Jerusalem tunnels, highway system aimed to ease traffic jams by 2024

Construction breakthrough to take transformational road network closer to delivery

An artist rendering of the tunnel and highway system being built in northern Jerusalem in partnership with the Moriah Jerusalem Development Corporation, a municipality owned development company. (Moriah Jerusalem Development Corporation)
An artist rendering of the tunnel and highway system being built in northern Jerusalem in partnership with the Moriah Jerusalem Development Corporation, a municipality owned development company. (Moriah Jerusalem Development Corporation)

A major transportation infrastructure project in northern Jerusalem that includes underground tunnels and highway systems is on track for completion next year and has promised to ease traffic congestion to and from the capital’s northern neighborhoods by 2024.

The NIS 1.2 billion ($340 million) project, dubbed the French Hill tunnels, offers four tunnel systems extending some 3.5 kilometers (2 miles) under the French Hill, Kevarim, and Coca-Cola junctions — among the most congested in the city. Two two-lane tunnels running east-to-west will connect between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim, and two one-lane tunnels will run from Ramot to Pisgat Ze’ev and Neve Ya’akov and back.

The project — a collaboration between the Transportation Ministry, the Jerusalem Municipality, and contractor Moriah Jerusalem Development Company — broke ground in 2020 and is set for completion in two years.

A Channel 13 report this week said construction teams working 35 meters (115 feet) below ground took a major step forward in recent days.

Once completed, it will offer a quick connection to Highway 9 and then Highway 1 to Tel Aviv. Ma’ale Adumin Mayor Benny Kasriel told Channel 13 that the project will allow drivers to travel between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv without a single traffic light. The new infrastructure will also speed up journeys between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, and Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim.

Ten engineers and a hundred workers have been involved in breaking ground on the tunnel over the last two years. Despite some objections from environmentalists, the project is seen as essential to the future of Jerusalem by the municipality.

But the north-eastern tunnels are part of a larger project to transform Jerusalem’s traffic and the ways that people move around and through the city. The tunnels will connect to the light rail at French Hill Junction, and join the northern neighborhoods up with the rest of the city.

The Jerusalem light rail train at the French Hill station, July 2019. (Eli Ratner via iStock by Getty Images)

There is currently no indication that the project will be delayed — but there is still a considerable amount of work to do, including delivering cell phone reception to the entire tunnel network.

There are hundreds of other projects – valued at a further NIS 1.1 billion ($310 million) ongoing in the city to improve transport connections, according to Hebrew-language media.

A number of these relate to the entrances and exits to and from the city. They include widening Route 1, creating a new larger interchange on Ben Gurion Boulevard, upgrading the Sakharov Interchange, and creating 1,380 additional park-and-ride spaces to join the existing network so that increasing numbers of people are able to park on the edge of the city and then use public transport to move around.

On the southern side of the city is another tunneling project, to extend the existing Route 60, adding traffic lanes and a new bridge. The light rail continues to be extended along the red line and the green line, with the beginnings of a blue line. And further bike paths and walking routes are also promised.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion told Channel 13 that Jerusalem was “at a historic point in time.”

“We are integrating different transport projects into an urban system that will establish Jerusalem as the most advanced and accessible city in Israel,” said Lion.

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