Construction of the light rail system in Tel Aviv began Monday morning , with none of the major traffic snarls that had been anticipated.
“Light rail construction began, and the sky didn’t fall,” Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz told reporters Monday. “Traffic was even flowing.”
“It’s a historic day,” said Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. “We are beginning a very important project …that will improve life for many people when it is completed. I call on everyone to be patient. There will be traffic jams tomorrow. They’ll say it’s because of the [construction of the] train, as if there were no traffic jams yesterday.
“We’ve had traffic jams in Tel Aviv for many years. At the end of the day, this project is supposed to improve public transportation, so it’s worth the effort,” he said.
Waze, the community-based traffic and navigation app company, is helping to bring realtime information to commuters. A Waze traffic jam map is displayed on a screen in the situation room of the project, located in the Tel Aviv municipality. The police have been allocated an additional 168 staff positions to deal with problems arising from the light rail construction, but so far none have been recruited.
Tel Aviv business owners are particularly concerned about the negative impact the construction will have on their shops. They were unsuccessful in their court bid to halt or delay the project.
“Business owners need to adjust,” said Katz. “We will help them physically with accessibility. I hope that like today the fear [of disruption] is greater than the reality and that businesses will continue to flourish.”
Many main roads in Tel Aviv will be closed off, turned into one-way streets, or be off limits to private vehicles while construction is underway, prompting concern about major traffic disruptions.
Construction on the underground Allenby Station, at the intersection of Yehuda Halevy and Allenby streets, began on Monday and is expected to take four years. Traffic restrictions will be lifted according to progress on the station, NTA announced. A fence around the project is to be completed in the coming days. It will have windows allowing onlookers to watch the digging process.
The light rail project in the greater Tel Aviv area is expected to take six years. The Red Line will run from Petah Tikva through Bnei Brak, Ramat Gan, Tel Aviv, Jaffa and Bat Yam, and possibly to Rishon Letzion at a later stage. NTA completed four park-and-ride lots ahead of the dig to encourage drivers to take public transportation.
The lots in Gan Yehoshua and Tel Baruch beach in Tel Aviv, the Moshava Stadium in Petah Tikva and Mitzpe Modi’in all opened Monday. The first three lots cost 15 shekels and provide free shuttles to Yigal Alon Street in Tel Aviv, the stock exchange compound in Ramat Gan, the Azrieli towers in Tel Aviv, as well as Rothschild Boulevard.
Parking at the Mitzpe Modi’in lot, built earlier this year, will be free of charge, and Kavim company buses will stop there.
Katz said that in the coming weeks drivers will be directed to stadium parking lots in Netanya, Herzliya and Rishon Letzion, from where they will be able to take public transportation to Tel Aviv.