Toll Highway to Stretch Further

The southern sections of the Trans-Israel Highway toll road are to be built through the PFI (private finance initiative) method of funding, and not as part of the government's budget, as was decided by the government, according to Trans-Israel Highway CEO Yehuda Cohen.

Under PFI, a private company builds and operates the project for a set period, typically 30 years, during which time it runs the infrastructure as a franchise, and is paid annually by the government. At the end of the period, the project is transferred to the body that commissioned it.

PFI is increasingly popular in developed countries as a way of bringing in private sources of financing for large public projects, shifting responsibility to the private sector as well as eliminating the need to register the project as large capital expenditures in the government's budget.

According to Cohen, sections 19 and 20 of the Trans-Israel Highway, from Gedera to Ahuzam via Kiryat Gat - a stretch of 35 kilometers - will be built using this PFI method, and the income collected from tolls on these sections will be paid to the state. An earlier government decision, however, had resolved that the state would finance these sections, and indeed the Trans-Israel Highway carried out preparatory work on these sections, at a cost of NIS 50 million. The total cost of sections 19 and 20 is estimated to be in the region of NIS 350 million.

The northern-most extension of the highway, from the Iron River (west of Hadera) to Elyakim, is currently being financed through state funding, at a cost of NIS 550 million, though a toll will also be charged for users of this section.