Tomorrow's Forecast: Smooth Sailing to Tel Aviv ... if You Pay Up

The 13-kilometer toll lane, beginning near Ben-Gurion International Airport and ending shortly after the Kibbutz Galuyot exit, will be free for public transport and vehicles carrying more than four people. Motorbikes will be charged 50 percent of the going rate.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
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Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

The fast lane to Tel Aviv will open for traffic on Friday for the first time.

The 13-kilometer toll lane, beginning near Ben-Gurion International Airport and ending shortly after the Kibbutz Galuyot exit, will be free for public transport and vehicles carrying more than four people. Motorbikes will be charged 50 percent of the going rate.

Drivers using the lane will be required to register, at no cost, on the operating company's website. Closed-circuit TV cameras will be used to identify unregistered drivers by their license, and they will be fined. A free shuttle service will operate along the lane, starting at the Shafirim interchange, where a parking lot was built that can accommodate more than 2,000 cars. It will have stops at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv and at the Ramat Gan diamond exchange. The shuttles will depart every five minutes between 6 A.M. and 11 P.M.

The fee for using the toll lane will start at NIS 6, but it will fluctuate in response to changes in traffic on the road, increasing as traffic becomes heavier. The exact fee will be updated every minute, using an algorithm developed by Siemens. The calculation will take into account traffic congestion on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, traffic congestion on the fast lane, and the value of an Israeli work hour, currently estimated at NIS 35. The maximum fee, 25 shekels, is expected to be charged at the morning rush hour - from 6:30 A.M. to 10:00 A.M., especially during the peak hours of 8:00 A.M. to 9 A.M.

Electronic signs positioned a kilometer before the lane will post updated toll fees, as they change.

"This fast lane system is the most advanced in the world," said Ezra Levi, deputy director of Ord, the company that runs its control system. He noted that although Shaffir Engineering, which operates the entire lane, can legally charge up to NIS 75 per journey, he does not believe the prices will even come close to that and will remain for the better part of the day - 18 out of 24 hours - at the minimum rate of NIS 6.

"If the morning's traffic jam is 45 minutes, and I'm offering you a way to travel the same distance in 11 minutes, you'll pay because you'll be saving work time, fuel and nerves," he said. "On Sundays, there will be this great traffic jam all the way to Tel Aviv, and you'll see cars rushing by on the fast lane. When you're in the jam and everybody else is in the jam, it's one thing, but when you're standing still and someone drives by you, it's not as pleasant. People will see it and will also want to go on the fast lane."

The operating company has made a commitment that at least 1,600 cars will travel through the lane every hour at a speed of no less than 70 kilometers per hour. It hopes to reach 1,800 vehicles an hour, which would leave a two-second interval between cars.

Nitzan Yotzer, head of the Fast Lanes Administration, said speed was unlikely to exceed 70 kilometers an hour during rush hour. "When cars are driving closely behind on another, everyone need to be driving at the same speed," he said. The company hopes that a quarter of all vehicles and half of all passengers (including those using public transportation ) traveling to Tel Aviv during the rush hour will use the fast lane.

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