Bureaucracy Spawns a Death Trap at Eyal

Alon Geva, a 35-year-old from Alfei Menashe, died Friday night in a head-on collision at the Eyal Interchange on Route 6, the Trans-Israel Highway. Geva, on a motorcycle, veered out of his lane and slammed into an oncoming car.

The residents of nearby Tzur Yigal were not surprised - they believed a fatal accident was inevitable. Since the interchange was opened to traffic in August 2002, they say there have been several accidents - some causing serious injuries. The cause is the sharp bends and dangerous curves on the interchange. As well as being an accident hotspot, they say the interchange is often congested, especially in the morning and early evening rush hours.

The Transport Ministry, the Traffic Police and Derech Eretz, the company that operates Route 6, are well aware of the dangers - but nothing is being done to improve safety on this stretch of road. Derech Eretz says it presented the Transport Ministry with a plan to put traffic lights at the interchange several months ago, but the ministry rejected it.

Ministry sources say all such proposals must be submitted to the Ma'atz public works authority, which is responsible for inter-urban roads. Ma'atz says the Transport Ministry is the sole authority that can approve new traffic lights.

Eyal Interchange connects Kokhav Yair, Tzur Yigal, Tira, Taibeh and Kibbutz Eyal to Kfar Sava, and gives quick access to Route 6. It was built by Derech Eretz - the company awarded the contract to build the main section of Route 6 - and planned by the Trans-Israel Highway Company, the government body that supervises and operated the road. The entrance to the interchange from the direction of Kfar Sava in the west is a continuation of Route 444, and has many twists and turns.

In the center of the interchange there is a junction, allowing vehicles to access the southbound lanes of Route 6. The turn onto Route 6 is very sharp - almost 90 degrees - and vehicles must come to an almost complete standstill. On the eastern side of the interchange are similarly sharp turns right, in the direction of Qalqiliyah, and left, toward KoKhav Yair and Tzur Yigal. Both also demand that drivers reduce speed drastically. It is on these turns that many drivers, who approach the interchange at high speed, lose control of their vehicles.

Some 12 months ago, half a year after it was opened, police agreed that Eyal Interchange was problematic and a potential accident hotspot. Police said at the time that the interchange was built according to development plans for future roads that were never built. They said police had instructed the construction company to remove the sharp turns at the entrance to the interchange.

All of those involved with the road - Tans-Israel Highway Company, the Transport Ministry and the police - promised a year ago that traffic lights would be installed in a short time.