Pilot program follows similar plan to free congested main roads in Jerusalem.
By Avi Bar-Eli

Pilot program follows similar plan to free congested main roads in Jerusalem.
By Avi Bar-Eli

Trucks will be banned from entering the greater Tel Aviv area on major traffic arteries during the morning rush hour, in a pilot program that will start on January 1, 2011.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz announced the plan yesterday at a conference at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque that was sponsored by Transport Today & Tomorrow, a public-transport advocacy organization.

The ban will be in effect on weekdays, from 6 A.M. to 9 A.M., on Highway 4, between the Beit Lid and Holot interchanges; on Highway 5, between the Glilot and Morasha interchanges; on Route 20 (the Ayalon Highway ) from Glilot to Holot; and other major roads into Tel Aviv, including Derekh Namir, the coastal road.

Signs will be posted on the affected roads before the end of the year.

A similar pilot program was introduced a year ago in Jerusalem that barred heavy trucks from entering the capital using Highway 1, the main Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road, during the morning rush hour. The trucks were diverted to Route 431.

It cannot be said that the truckers are on board. Katz said officials from his ministry would be talking with representatives of the truckers’ association, the Israel Road Transport Board. But representatives of the truckers at yesterday’s conference were incensed at the proposal, which was not coordinated with them.

“It’s an amateurish plan,” said transport board chairman Gabry Ben-Harush. “Nobody met with our experts. Nobody checked what the situation is, what the alternatives are and what the implications will be.” The ministry might as well run an ad in the paper telling the truckers when they could drive, Ben-Harush added sarcastically.

The board accepted the Jerusalem trial ban only after alternatives were offered to truckers: Route 431 for the journey, and the Latrun truck stop for resting, Ben-Harush said.

“I also live in Israel and I also care. But trucks delivering goods to supermarkets and stores have to enter Tel Aviv in the morning. What are they supposed to do?” Ben-Harush said.

Allowing trucks in only after 9 A.M. would mean that deliveries of fresh food would continue until the afternoon or evening, when Tel Aviv is congested to begin with. “We aren’t there joyriding,” Ben-Harush said, adding that it won’t help anyone if the city is filled with delivery trucks in the afternoon.

Fast road to fiasco

The actual subject of the conference was public transportation in Tel Aviv, which, Katz said, is a fiasco of historic proportions.

The only possible solution for mass transport in Tel Aviv is a rail system, Katz said. The plan to build the so-called Red Line section of a future rail system fell through because the state and the consortium that won the tender utterly failed to agree on terms, he said. But lose not hope, Tel Aviv: On Sunday, Katz disclosed, he met with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to discuss the issue. They agreed that a proposal for the state to fund the construction of a rail line by 2017 will be presented to the cabinet on October 17.

MK Dov Khenin (Hadash ) said at the conference that the government did right to take back the rail project, and not only because the franchisee had been greedy: “Handing over a project like that to the private sector is doomed to fail,” Khenin said.

MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz ) believes that large-capacity buses, traveling along designated routes, are the way to solve Tel Aviv’s transportation problems. This would cost less and be operational sooner than the proposed rail system, part of which is to be underground, he argues.

“We have to tell the truth and climb down from that tree,” Horowitz said. “The basis of some of the considerations was illogical to begin with.”

Too much public relations and politics had become involved, he said: Trains have an elegant image and buses have a grubby one, but they’re the way to go, Horowitz declared.