The Ministry of Transport published last week a primarily web-based campaign showing the impending changes, transformations and expansions undertaken in air, sea, and land transportation in the country. The Ministry of Transport, headed by Minister Israel Katz, has been working intensively in recent years to develop and implement far-reaching programs that could affect every Israeli citizen’s life. Videos distributed by the Ministry of Transport online show the expected investment of about 100 billion Shekels over the next six to eight years. The Ministry’s publicized objective is the promotion of national transportation that will leverage economic development, connect the periphery to the major cities, and place Israel among the most advanced countries in terms of transportation.
It is no secret that transportation development has suffered neglect and lack of promotion in the past two decades. Until recently, roads have not been revamped, the train’s route was not developed, and traffic jams across the country intensified due to an increase in the number of private vehicles. Today, most citizens own at least one car, and in many cases two, a situation demanding immediate solutions. Lately, however, Israel has witnessed developments everywhere. Across the country, from north to south, there are new roads, interchanges have been built, railroads placed and more.
In Jerusalem, the Ministry promises to construct a new entrance. The road will be called “Route 16” and will reach downtown. The road will contain mostly tunnels and should relieve traffic congestion. The busy highway 1 linking Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will become a two-track road which should, according to transportation officials, solve the heavy load on this road.
Also, a special railway line of about 57 km should be open by the year 2017, which will connect Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by only 28 minutes travel.
In the North, one of the major projects that the Ministry of Transport presented is the establishment of the Golani Junction interchange – a huge project that began this year and is scheduled to be concluded in 2013. The junction will connect in the future to a network of highways and to Highway 6, which will allow a smoother trip with no traffic lights from the north of the country to its center.
Another project is the extension of Highway 6, Israel’s most significant highway. Today it ends in the north at the Ein Tut intersection near Yokneam. In the future it will be expanded to Shlomi, taking the highway even further North. As for the southern segment of the highway, The Ministry of Transport promised to expand the highway to the outskirts of Be’erSheva, which will further connect the south to central Israel.
A more grandiose project is the “Ha’Emek Train” – a flagship project of the Ministry which has set to develop the Valley Railroad, establishing a fast connection along the Haifa – Nazareth – Beit Shean rout. This project is scheduled to be ended by 2016. Minister Katz briefly introduced the project’s future benefits for the entire region: “The Jordanians are interested in promoting such a project, which will allow them to export and import cargo by train, arriving at the port of Haifa.”
In the center of the country, the Ministry of Transport presented the light rail which should constitute in the near future an extensive transportation network in the greater Tel Aviv area. The first line to be built is the Red Line, which will connect Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Petach Tikva, Bnei Brak and Bat Yam. The 11-billion-Shekel project will include additional lines, and will be completed gradually by 2017.
Furthermore, the ministry is establishing in the Sharon area a transportation system of special buses called BRT lines, which will have its separate lanes. The BRT lines are intended to transport large numbers of passengers. The network is scheduled to be opened in 2014.
In the south of the country, modern rail lines should connect the Tel Aviv metropolitan area to the south of the country, including Eilat, and will allow passengers on the train to get from Tel Aviv to Eilat in two hours. At Timna, a new international airport will replace the existing one in Eilat. The new airport will be called “Ramon Airport,” named after Ilan Ramon, an Air Force pilot and the first Israeli astronaut, and Assaf Ramon, Ilan’s son who was also an air force pilot and who was recently killed in a training accident. The Ministry of Transport did not supply an exact date of completion for this project.
Finally, the Ministry takes pride in its achievements in reducing vehicle and traffic accidents, showing a steady decrease in the number of casualties on the roads – about 22% over the past five years. It aims to reduce the number of deaths on Israel’s roads to below three-hundred by 2015. As of now, the mortality rate on Israel’s roads this year has been reduced by about 25% compared to last year.
The Ministry of Transportation’s plans for the coming years affords good news to every citizen in the country. The only question remains is how much the Ministry will maintain the continuity and implementation of all these plans.
About the Author: Tom Nisani is a contributor to Tazpit News Agency.
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