Katz halts plans for weekend bridge construction in Tel Aviv
Ayalon Highway was due to be closed in Tel Aviv area for 6 weekends for the construction of a pedestrian and cycling bridge, but it raised the ire of Haredi parties, who warned against Shabbat desecration; in response, transportation minister orders halt of works until different solution can be found.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz halted on Wednesday plans to close parts of the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv during weekends for the construction of the new pedestrian and cycling Yehudit Bridge, which will connect Yigal Alon Street and the Montefiore neighborhood.
Ayalon Highways Co. announced Tuesday that the planned work was to take place over six weekends starting August 31. Each time, one direction of the Ayalon Highway was to be closed to traffic for 24 hours. The company planned to close the highway on Friday at 6pm and reopen it on Saturday at 6pm.
Shas MK Yinon Azulay wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking that he intervenes and stops the work. He pointed out that the Hebrew month of Elul, a month of heavenly mercy and forgiveness, is a terrible time to schedule such an open and ongoing Shabbat desecration.
Azulay also noted the coalition agreement, signed in 2015, states that the status quo with regards to religion and state will not be violated.
Transportation Minister Katz said the announcement about works to be carried out on Shabbat was "outrageous and needless."
He instructed Ayalon Highways Co. to immediately freeze the plans and submit new plans as soon as possible to carry out the works without disrupting traffic on the weekend, including by carrying out the work in the late night hours.
Ayalon Highways Co. said it would "act in accordance with Transportation Ministry instructions and will examine alternatives."
MK Maklev welcomed Katz's decision, saying "it has been proven that when there's a will, there's a way to find solutions, and we welcome that."
Merez leader MK Tamar Zandberg slammed Katz's decision, saying "in a democratic-liberal state in 2018, infrastructure work should be managed in accordance with the needs and in a way that least disrupts the lives of citizens, and not according to dark whims of politicians who serve rabbis rather than the public. Katz's insufferable capitulation to the Haredim proves just how much this government is pulling Israel away from liberal democracy."
Yesh Atid Chairman MK Yair Lapid chose to blame Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"The Haredim, the true rulers of this government, have ordered Netanyahu to freeze the works on Ayalon Highways. So Netanyahu of course obeyed and froze it, and we will once again be stuck in insane traffic," Lapid charged.
"The only government that did not capitulate to their every whim was the one we formed. The only government that won't capitulate to them in future will be the ones we form," he added.
The bridge construction project will culminate in the placement of six massive steel beams, 55 meters long, weighing more than 1,000 tons.
This complex engineering and safety operation will be carried out in the central and most crowded traffic artery in Israel. Some 750,000 vehicles and dozens of passenger trains pass by the location daily.
The bridge will be 110 meters long, 11 meters wide and 18 meters high. It will consist of, among other things, a steel beam that will lean on an upper central arch and horizontal beams, without columns.
The bridge will be divided into a cycling track and a pedestrian walkway with wooden flooring. Between the two will be a seating area with street furniture and parking facilities for bicycles. The top of the bridge will be covered.
The bridge assembly will be carried out by the erection of each beam by dedicated hydraulic cranes. The hoisting of each beam is planned to last about 24 hours, with the deployment of the cranes taking six hours and the hoisting work itself, along with welding the parts together, will take about 15 hours. In order to ensure the safety of the workers, a generous amount of time is being devoted to deploying the cranes, so that the work can be done with maximum safety for the project workers and drivers.
The project is an initiative of the Tel Aviv municipality and the Ayalon Highway Company. The bridge will connect the eastern and western sections of the city and encourage safe and ecological transportation by foot and bicycle.
It is also hoped the bridge would serve to reduce the number of vehicles entering Tel Aviv as upon its completion, residents of the neighboring cities of Ramat Gan and Givatayim will be able to walk into the center of the city.
The bridge is being constructed not far from the Hashalom Train Station and the future Yehudit Station on the light rail’s Red Line. It will also facilitate access to the Cinematheque, the Tel Aviv Museum and the Sarona Market on the west side of the city; and Menorah Arena and the office buildings on the east side.
Two years ago, parts of the Ayalon Highway was closed to traffic due to the construction of the southern portal and passenger terminal of the Hashalom Train Station.