Tel Aviv Light Rail Builder Seeks to Widen Construction

Work on two new lines could begin even before expected completion of Red Line in 2021; with traffic already congested, effect of additional construction would be dramatic.

Light-rail construction in Maariv Junction in central Tel Aviv. August 2015.
Ofer Vaknin

As work proceeds apace on the Tel Aviv light rail’s Red Line, the contractor, NTA Metropolitan Mass Transit, is pushing for the approval of two more lines, the green and the purple. Work on these lines could begin even before the expected completion of the Red Line in 2021.

With the current construction causing traffic snarls and a loss of business for many store-owners, the effect of additional construction will be no less dramatic: tunnel entrances will totally alter streets, green spaces will be off limits to the public for lengthy periods, bike paths will be cut off, traffic lanes and sidewalks will be narrowed and thousands of trees will be cut down.

The 39-kilometer Green Line will link Rishon Letzion to Herzliya and north Tel Aviv. En route it will pass through Holon. In north Tel Aviv it will split into two tracks, one to Kiryat Atidim in northeastern Tel Aviv, the other to Herzliya Pituah. Its main section will run the entire length of Ibn Gvirol Street. Some 4.5 kilometers of it will be underground.

The Purple Line will start at the Arlosoroff train station and travel west along Arlosoroff Street, south on Ben-Yehuda and Allenby to Levinsky Park and the Hagana train station, and from there to Derech Hashalom, the Aluf Sadeh junction and Tel Hashomer. After the Sheba Medical Center it will split south toward Or Yehuda and Yehud and north toward Kiryat Ono and Bar-Ilan University. All 28 kilometers will be at street level.

NTA uploaded the detailed plans for the new lines, comprising hundreds of documents totaling thousands of pages that can barely be understood by professionals, let alone laymen. Only a short period was allowed for objections to the central section of the Green Line and the western section of the Purple Line. The Adam Teva V’Din environmental group filed detailed objections, as have the Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan municipalities.

The primary objections are to the tunnel entrances planned for the Green Line on northern Ibn Gvirol Street, between Nordau and Yehuda Hamaccabi, and the second entrance on Har Zion Street, near Levinsky Park. These portals will cut the streets into two parts that will not be accessible to each other. The entrance on Ibn Gvirol will be south of the Yarkon River and the train will cross the river on a new bridge.

“These portals will have a markedly negative impact on the urban environment by being a barrier and creating a ‘gap’ in the urban fabric,” wrote planner Yael Dori of Adam Teva V’Din. It recommends moving the Har Zion entrance further south, and to continue the tunnel under the Yarkon and bring it back up to street level north of the river, to avoid building another bridge that would harm the landscape.

“The portal will be a hole in the middle of one of Tel Aviv’s main arteries,” she wrote. “North of the portal there’s a raised station planned that will also take up much of the width of the street. The remaining width on the sides of the entrance and the station will not be sufficient for pedestrians, [bicycle] riders, and seating areas for the businesses on that part of the street.”

The southern portal, meanwhile, “will seriously divide the Neveh Sha’anan neighborhood adjacent to the Florentine neighborhood, an area that has already suffered urban abuse from two central bus stations, the current one being one of the worst structures in Israel,” Dori wrote.

The group also notes those areas designated as staging areas for the work that will be closed to the public for the duration. These include the northern bank of the Yarkon between Ibn Gvirol and Rokach Avenue; Milano Square; Rabin Square; Levinsky Park; Hahorshot Park; Hakovshim Park; Hatikva Park and Edith Wolfson Park. Adam Teva V’Din also noted that the plans do not give sufficient attention to how bus lines will feed the rail lines, nor how the lines integrate with bike paths.

Construction of light rail begins in central Tel Aviv. August 3, 2015.
Ofer Vaknin

“Adam Teva V’Din unequivocally supports the development of mass transit in Gush Dan,” the group stressed. “However, all public transportation must be planned to benefit the public and the environment and minimize damage, even during the construction.”

The NTA company said, “The National Infrastructures Commission has started to address the objections to the Green and Purple lines and we will respond as is customary via the legal statutory procedures. We must stress that building a modern and advanced mass transit system is crucial to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution in Tel Aviv and Gush Dan.”