A main Jerusalem traffic artery used by tens of thousands of travelers to enter the city from the west was shut down Sunday morning for the next three years to make way for a massive new commercial center.
Authorities closed Shazar Boulevard from the Chords Bridge to the Nordau Junction, forcing cars to detour to other thoroughfares already plagued by overcrowding.
Public buses will still be allowed to use the road, which runs by the International Convention Center, though the city advised travelers to plan for “light changes” to bus routes until July 19.
Shazar Boulevard is a major link between Route 1, the main highway linking the capital to Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem’s congested city center.
However, as of Sunday, cars are being forced to detour onto Herzl Boulevard to the south, and then to reach the city center via Yitzhak Rabin Boulevard, which runs through the government quarter.
Authorities have also recommended that travelers use other highways leading into the city, including Route 443, which runs through the West Bank and links into the Begin freeway.
The closure is to allow construction to begin on the Jerusalem Gateway commercial center.
The 74-acre project, which includes a recently completed train station, is expected to include several towers, with some 1.5 million square meters of office and commercial space, as well as some 2,000 hotel rooms.
To make room for the new quarter, planners will move traffic underground, into a 250 meter-long tunnel, which is expected to be completed in 2022. A large underground parking lot is also planned.
The capital, home to nearly a million people, has been plagued for decades by a lack of road connections leading in and out of the city, particularly to the west.
Last month, construction began on a new highway into the city expected to help ease some of the congestion.
Work on Route 16, which will branch off Route 1 near the Motza bridge and cut through the mountains via tunnel, emerging in the city’s Bayit Vegan neighborhood, is expected to take several years.
A March report from the state comptroller found that lackluster planning over the years has caused heavy congestion on roads and overcrowding on trains and buses in Israel.
The report said traffic volume had increased by almost 25 percent in the past decade and as a result, congestion on the roads is three and a half times above the average of countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), where Israel trails all others.
In Israel, there are 2,730 vehicles per kilometer of road, dwarfing the OECD average of 774.