Tel Aviv to suffer heavier traffic as light rail works intensify on Allenby Street

Current plans see the busy thoroughfare being used exclusively by trams, though no final decision yet

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Illustrative: Light rail construction taking place at the intersection of Allenby and Yehuda Halevi streets in Tel Aviv, August 4, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Illustrative: Light rail construction taking place at the intersection of Allenby and Yehuda Halevi streets in Tel Aviv, August 4, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Traffic in Tel Aviv is set to worsen before the end of the year when the main segment of Allenby Street, one of the city’s busiest, is blocked off for construction of the Purple Line light rail route.

According to current plans, cars, buses, garbage collection and supply trucks for stores will be permanently redirected to adjacent routes in the coming months as the street will be exclusively used by the light rail when the line is scheduled to open in 2026, drawing ire from residents and store owners.

The section of the track is planned to be built on ground level as opposed to underground, like other parts of the rail system.

Thousands of buses traverse the popular street, home to the iconic Carmel Market, every day. Private vehicles are already barred from using parts of Allenby due to the works.

The street will be closed in stages, beginning with a segment near the intersection of Ben Yehuda Street. Later on, the central part of Allenby, from the intersection with King George Street to its southern end, will also be blocked off.

The Purple Line will transport passengers from Yehud, Kiryat Ono, Ramat Gan and Givatayim to the center of Tel Aviv.

The new Allenby underground station of the light rail Red Line in Tel Aviv, June 23, 2022. Some of the mass transit system runs underground. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Tel Aviv municipality said in a statement that a final decision on the plans and the date of the closure had not been made yet.

However, it said, it concluded with NTA Metropolitan Mass Transit System, the firm in charge of the light rail, that the full closure of the street will not occur until the first light rail line — the Red Line — becomes operational in November after several years of delays.

An official from NTA told the Ynet news site that allowing the buses to use the route, as originally planned, would require uprooting trees and would make it harder for the system to be punctual.

“A bus that is late with passengers may delay the train that follows it and harm the service that affects the [central] Dan region, because the trains depend on one another,” the unnamed official was quoted as saying.

Inbal Gelz, the coordinator of a Tel Aviv resident action committee, has petitioned the High Court of Justice to halt the construction work, claiming that bus stops on Rothschild Boulevard, Ben Zion Boulevard, and Yehuda Halevi Street were inadequate alternatives to the service on Allenby.

She pushed for a return to the original plan, which would have allowed buses to travel alongside the trams by the end of the construction.

Illustrative: Underground construction on the Red Line as part of the Tel Aviv Light Rail system, on September 13, 2021. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

“We are cast to suffer permanently. This is not something temporary,” Gelz complained, according to Ynet.

Deputy Mayor Meital Lahavi wrote to Tel Aviv municipality Director-General Menachem Leiva in August, requesting a reevaluation of the plan to close Allenby, and emphasizing that the first light rail route scheduled to open, the Red Line, must be operational before Allenby’s closure.

She recommended the establishment of electric minibus routes that would connect the heart of the city to the Red Line and other main corridors of public transportation.

When it opens, the Red Line will go from Bat Yam to Petah Tikva via Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Ramat Gan and Bnei Brak.

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