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The Trans-Israel Highway company is so keen to advance on the national road project that it is considering paving a northern section of the highway under its own steam, CEO Yehuda Cohen told Ha'aretz.

This is so, despite the fact that the concessionaire for the highway project, the Derech Eretz company, is currently in negotiations over the extension of its contract to cover the same stretch, through a BOT intiative. (BOT refers to build-operate-transfer, a method by which a private contractor builds, operates for a set period of time, usually 20/25 years, and then transfers the project in toto to the state).

The northern section lies between the Iron river (Wadi Ara) and Eliakim (Wadi Milk) and stretches for 17 kilometers. The paving of the road at this section was approved by the government in August 2000. According to Cohen, paving this section would cost around NIS 450 million, and the company could complete the work within three years, spreading the cost throughout the period. Cohen added that the private intiative has now been passed to the Finance and Transportation ministries for discussion.

The Derech Eretz group meanwhile estimates that the road at that point would cost nearer to NIS 600 million. The company has reached an initial understanding over the financing of this stretch with its lenders, according to CEO Ehud Savyon, who adds that the company had accumulated much experience during its construction of the initial stages of the Trans-Israel Highway and is currently on target with regards to its schedule, as well as meeting professional and environmental criteria.

Director general of the Transport Ministry Ben Zion Salman said that the Trans-Israel Highway company was established in order to manage and oversee the project, and not to build the project itself.