Traffic on the Trans-Israel Highway is likely to drop by two-thirds with the start of toll collection, according to road operator Derech Eretz.
The collection is to begin in the next few days. If the company's forecast is correct, income on the highway will be higher than projected as a higher-than-expected 50,000 cars a day use the road.
The figures apply to the section of road from the Ayal Interchange to Ben Shemen, as the Ben Shemen-Nahshonim stretch is only open to northbound traffic.
Global toll road experience indicates that the initiation of the toll itself leads to a decrease of half to two-thirds in road use. Derech Eretz reports that a similar drop in traffic will lead to higher revenues than had been projected.
The toll will be NIS 6-8 in the first stage. Occasional users will be charged NIS 6 for video filming while frequent users will be able to purchase a "PassKal" device (for a NIS 150 guarantee) and be exempt from the payment. Estimates place the franchisee's early stage revenues at NIS 200,000 per day.
Derech Eretz continues fundraising to finance Sector 18, the northern stretch of the road about which the franchisee is still negotiating with the state.
Over the weekend, Derech Eretz chose the underwriters that will lead the bond issue - IBI and Leumi & Co. who beat out Leader and Gmul for the job. The NIS 600 million offering is planned for March 2003.
A small portion of the sum will be raised from the commercial banks, while the rest will come from capital market entities like provident funds, pension funds and insurance companies.
The negotiations on the franchise terms for Sector 18 have encountered substantial roadblocks.
According to a cabinet decision, if no agreement with Derech Eretz is reached in the next three weeks, the state will publish a tender for the paving and operation of the northern stretch by a private contractor.
Most of the disagreement centers on the safety net the state will grant if traffic volume is lower than projected. The government has guaranteed 72 percent of the projected revenues on minimum road use if the sum isn't generated by actual toll collection.
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