No Traffic Means More Road Construction, Minister Says

YERUSHALAYIM -
An empty Ayalon Highway. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

With almost no traffic to speak of, it’s the perfect time for road work, the Transportation Ministry has decided – and it is starting with a greatly accelerated construction program for the Ayalon Expressway in Tel Aviv. Work will begin this week on expanding express lanes and constructing several new interchanges, and the ministry hopes that the accelerated work will be finished in record time, ready to accommodate drivers when they return to the roads.

With most businesses closed, traffic on Israeli roads has become negligible. On an ordinary day, some 850,000 vehicles pass through the Ayalon Expressway, which cuts through Tel Aviv and connects to highways north and south of the city. Nowadays, barely several thousand vehicles are using the road – which provides an opportunity for advanced construction work, Transportation Minister Betzalel Smotrich said.

Throughout the year, it’s a struggle to get road work done in Israel, and especially in Tel Aviv, where the traffic never seems to let up. The desire to balance the needs of commuters with the need to build, fix and maintain roads has led to many bitter disputes, including instances in which the ministry authorized work on Shabbos, when traffic is far lighter. The current situation, Smotrich said, allows for the work to go on almost uninterrupted, without causing mass traffic jams, angry drivers and potential disputes over Shabbos work.

“We are taking advantage of the opportunity that has been created by coronavirus to speed up important infrastructure work on highways and railways,” Smotrich said. “We have set aside a budget of NIS 900 million for work that will take place at this time. The situation allows us to block roads and conduct work without inconveniencing drivers, and allows us to work during daytime hours as well. We will be able to finish work on projects substantially ahead of schedule.”