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A new section of the Trans-Israel Highway (Route 6) will open today after years of delay, extending the road 17 kilometers northward from its current terminus at the Wadi Ara Junction. The new section will end at the Tut Junction, near Yokne'am.

However, another 60 kilometers remain to be built before the road reaches its final northern end-point of Shlomi.

Construction of the road was repeatedly delayed by objections and legal action on the part of environmental organizations. In addition, a two-year delay stemmed from ultra-Orthodox protests against the original route, on the grounds that it would have destroyed ancient Jewish graves.

To solve the environmental problem, the route was changed. To minimize the environmental damage, the Derech Eretz company, which is building the highway, built 14 overpasses totaling 2,500 meters in length, two interchanges, two tunnels totaling 350 meters in length and two animal crossings totaling 150 meters in length. As a result, this section of the road cost NIS 1.25 billion.

Local politicians said the new section's opening would spur the north's development. "Where there is efficient transportation there is life," said Tiberias city councilman Dudik Azoulay. "The road brings people who are interested in working in the Galilee, but still want to live in the center of the country, closer. Manpower and investors are no longer so far away."

One example of such development was the opening of a new branch of Al Babur, a well-known Wadi Ara restaurant, at the Yokne'am Junction in April. Manager Hussam Abbas said a major reason for the expansion was the imminent opening of the new section of Trans-Israel Highway, which he expects to produce "a 50 percent increase in revenue."