The main highway leading from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem closed Thursday night and was to remain shut overnight as engineers put the final touches on two new interchanges expected to drastically slash travel time to the capital.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened a new tunnel, 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.
“This Harel Tunnel 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 for the new tunnels with Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz.
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 the 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 re-opening of the Harel Interchange with new tunnels and a new bridge at the Motza Interchange.
Route 1 will reopen to traffic at 10 a.m. Friday.
Drivers who need to get to Jerusalem during those hours are being asked to take Route 443.
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.”