The main highway into Jerusalem will receive a major expansion in the coming years, after the High Court rejected petitions against the plan by nearby residents, green lighting one of the largest infrastructure projects in Israel in recent years.
Approval of plans for the segment of Route 1 leading into the capital, to include bridges, tunnels and interchanges, means construction can start this summer.
Construction is expected to take four years and cost some NIS 2.5 billion.
The Israel National Roads Company says it does not expect the work, which will affect areas between Sha'ar Hagai and the western entrance to Jerusalem, to cause traffic tie-ups.
Residents of communities in the area have voiced several objections to the plan, most of which the High Court rejected in Monday's ruling. The plan calls for the road to become a three-lane highway in each direction. Some of the curves in the road will be eliminated, including the notorious Motza curve, as will some of the steep ascents, where vehicles breakdowns currently cause massive tie-ups.
The project also includes a tunnel under the Castel hill, across the current highway south of the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion, and a new interchange at Neveh Ilan.
The section of the road near Sha'ar Hagai will be raised by about six meters and a new interchange will be built near Abu Ghosh by excavating dozens of meters.
The plan has its detractors, among them residents of Mevasseret Zion and nearby communities, who protested the planned closing of their community's exit via Motza to Jerusalem.
Others say the raising of the roadway near Sha'ar Hagai will damage the landscape and the special feeling travelers describe upon leaving the lowlands behind and entering the narrow passage leading up to the capital.
In response to the High Court petition against the plan, the court ordered the National Infrastructure Committee, an Interior Ministry body, to revisit it. In a hearing on Monday, the court rejected most of the objections to the plan and approved the start of work.
However, the court also ordered the committee not to close the Motza interchange until a proper solution is found for the residents of Mevasseret.
One proposal suggests connecting Motza to Mount Herzl in Jerusalem via a tunnel. Mevasseret residents said they were pleased with the ruling.
"We are not against the road [but] if only one entrance is left to Mevasseret, an ambulance won't be able to reach a heart attack victim on time," Mevasseret Zion Local Council chairman Aryeh Shamam said.
The Israel National Roads Company called the road expansion "a revolution in the link between Tel Aviv and the capital, using the highest standards in the world."
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