Work on Tel Aviv’s light rail to begin this summer

Construction of the first line will take until at least 2021, leaving business owners concerned

Illustrative photo of construction work in Tel Aviv (photo credit: Roni Schutzer/Flash 90)
Illustrative photo of construction work in Tel Aviv (photo credit: Roni Schutzer/Flash 90)

Work on the Red Line, the first line of Tel Aviv’s light-rail system, from Petah Tikva to Bat Yam, is set to begin in August. Digging for the line, which will cross Tel Aviv partly underground, will continue until 2021, with a good chance that the project will go over schedule.

The incipient project has business owners in Tel Aviv’s trendy Gan Hahashmal neighborhood, where work is set to begin, worried about how their businesses will survive the coming years of traffic jams, construction, noise and dust.

Tel Aviv municipality officials have begun meeting with local business owners to inform them of the upcoming project and expected disruptions, but have reportedly offered them no encouragement or compensation.

Fashion designer Maya Bash, a Tel Aviv designer whose products are sold in stores in the United States, Europe, Japan and Russia, has had a store in Gan Hahashmal for years. Her meeting with municipality officials left her with a sense that she and other business owners can expect no help from the municipality during the challenging years to come, and that they were on their own.

“We were told that the project would be starting in July and shown a map of all the streets that would be blocked during the digging,” Bash told the Globes business daily, adding that digging in her area would be going on for at least five years. Her section will be fenced off in June, significantly affecting accessibility to her store and other stores in the area.

When local business owners asked about compensation, the municipality’s answer was unequivocal. “There will be no compensation, no discounts on municipal property tax or anything else,” said Bash, who said she pays NIS 1,800 ($460) in municipal property tax every two months.

Bash lamented that the young people who had revived and rebranded the Gan Hahashmal area, which had been rundown for years, would be the ones to suffer, with no support or encouragement from the Tel Aviv municipality.

Parking places will be done away with, Bash said, and the only option for accessibility to her area will be through a narrow pedestrian walkway through construction fences.

“As I see the situation now,” said Bash, “the only option is to move.”

Deputy Tel Aviv mayor Meital Lehavi, who is responsible for public transportation matters, told the Hebrew-language news site Ynet that owners of property near the train stations would benefit from improved business.

“The problem will be with residents of protected housing and shopowners,” she said. “We will have to find them alternative locations.”

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