Tel Aviv braces for light rail construction chaos

Large public parking lots and shuttle buses aim to relieve traffic backups expected to extend far beyond the city

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative photo of heavy traffic on the highway entering Tel Aviv. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of heavy traffic on the highway entering Tel Aviv. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

With work on the Tel Aviv light rail system scheduled to begin next week, planners primed commuters to the city and the surrounding Gush Dan region to expect traffic chaos as main arteries become blocked and drivers are rerouted to avoid construction sites.

At a press conference Monday by the Urban Transportation Company, which is building the light rail, officials and police explained plans for large public parking lots with shuttle buses into the city to provide alternative access for drivers of the estimated 550,000 vehicles that stream into Tel Aviv every day.

“We are treating these works like an operation, exactly like the visit by the pope or a visit by the US president,” said Yoram Ohayon, the deputy police commander of the Tel Aviv District.

Police urged commuters to use public transport, and warned that traffic jams could spread beyond the city and choke main routes throughout the broader area.

Disruptions are expected to hit Route 4 heading south to Ashdod, Route 1 heading east toward Jerusalem, and Route 2, the coastal road that goes north, as far as Netanya.

Construction teams are to break ground on an underground station at the corner of Allenby and Yehuda Halevi streets in south Tel Aviv at the beginning of next week; work another nine stations is to start in the coming months.

The construction will see the closure of some of the main roads in Tel Aviv and cause bus routes to be redirected.

Planners hope to complete work by 2021, after which the light rail will run from the Em Hamoshavot neighborhood in Petah Tikva to Herzl Street in Tel Aviv.

Five large parking lots with space for more than 4,000 vehicles are to open at Ganei Yehoshua, Tel Baruch, Kiryat Shaul, Kiryat Aryeh in Petah Tikva, and the town of Modiin.

Shuttle buses operating between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. will ferry commuters from the parking lots to the main business districts in Tel Aviv, and parking for the day will cost NIS 15 ($4.00)

In May, the China Railway Tunnel Group won a bid of close to NIS 3 billion ($800 million) to help build the long-awaited light rail in Tel Aviv. CRTG is a subsidiary of CREC, China’s largest construction company, which has business ties with Iran’s Khatam-al Anbiya Construction company worth billions, including a high-speed rail project announced earlier this year connecting Tehran and Isfahan.

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Daivd Shamah contributed to this report.

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