(JNi.media) The Jerusalem Building and Planning Committee on Wednesday approved construction of a second Light Rail line that will run from Gilo in the south to Ramot in the northwest and serve 250,000 residents.
Approval of the new “Blue Line” comes four years after the current “Red Line” was launched, running from Pisgat Ze’ev in northern Jerusalem, through the center of the capital to Mount Herzl.
Wednesday’s decision carries a huge political significance because like the Red Line, the new section will run through neighborhoods claimed by the Palestinian Authority. Connecting the entire city with a Light Rail physically unites the capital and establishes a de facto veto of any idea of dividing it wherever the trains are running.
The Blue Line’s is 12.5 miles long, including a half-mile long tunnel. It will run on Hebron Road, the main artery connecting Gilo and Talpiot. A branch of the Blue Line will serve the Emek Refa’im area and Malkha, which features a high-tech center, an upscale mall, the Teddy sports stadium and a new culture center.
Long-range plans for the Jerusalem Light Rail include a third, “Green Line,” connecting Gilo with Mount Scopus. In addition, work is underway to extend the current Red Line to Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center.
Jerusalem residents are hoping that construction of the Blue Line will be less of a horror show than the building the Red Line, which was plagued with long delays and caused massive inconvenience to shop keepers and pedestrians.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said after the Jerusalem committee’s decision, “We are witnessing a transportation revolution in Jerusalem. The Red Line has proven that a light rail system operating alongside buses is the most efficient way for the capital’s transportation.”
Katz noted that the widening of Highway 1 west of Jerusalem and the construction of a high-speed Tel Aviv-Jerusalem rail will also help the city’s growing transportation needs.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat commented, “Jerusalem residents will be able to enjoy shorter travel times, fewer traffic jams, cleaner air and a rejuvenated city.”