Expert Rejects Nearly 75 Percent of Objections to Tel Aviv Light Rail

Most controversially, expert rejects complaints by residents of southern neighborhood that tunnel entrance would cause major damage to their area.

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Tel Aviv light rail command center. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The expert considering objections to plans for the light rail system in Tel Aviv has rejected nearly three-quarters of all objections, Haaretz has learned. He has also responded differently to environmental groups, small businesses and residents living along the planned light rail route in comparison to developers and local government authorities.

Perhaps most controversially, Dimitri Mazo is recommending that a tunnel entrance in the south Tel Aviv neighborhood of Neveh Sha’anan not be moved, rejecting residents’ complaints that it will cause major damage to the area.

Mazo wrote in his report that the relocation of the tunnel entrance would harm the level of service that the Green Line service could offer, cause damage to open land and be detrimental in general to the light rail project.

Although he did not mention it, relocating the tunnel entrance would also have economic consequences, since it would involve further tunnel excavation.

Mazo has rejected 107 of 147 objections filed – among them a demand by environmental groups for better integration of the light rail system and bus traffic, and demands concerning bicycle lanes. He also rejected objections calling for a reduction in the number of trees to be felled.

Mazo’s stance appears in documents obtained by Haaretz. The Neveh Sha’anan tunnel entrance is planned for the area where Har Tzion Boulevard and Levinsky Street meet. Knowledgeable sources say the chances of the National Infrastructure Committee rejecting Mazo’s recommendation are negligible.

Mazo had previously rejected a demand that a tunnel entrance planned for Ibn Gabirol Street, north Tel Aviv, be relocated.

However, Mazo accepted objections from developers planning projects along Ibn Gabirol Street and elsewhere when it came to making changes so that their projects would not be harmed. He also accepted some of the municipality’s objections.

Residents and business owners in Neveh Sha’anan have sought to have the light rail tunnel entrance moved southward, a request that had support from the Tel Aviv district planning committee and Shikun & Binui, the firm building a project in the neighborhood near the old central bus station.

“The tunnel entrance planned on Har-Tzion Blvd. will damage and scar the boulevard and split the neighborhood in two,” area residents claimed in their objection. Locating the entrance in the heart of a built-up area with a delicate urban fabric is inconsistent with proper development of the city and with accepted transportation planning in similar urban areas around the world, they claimed.

One neighborhood representative, Tal Rabinovsky, appealed to several Knesset members, claiming the current plans would constitute “an urban death sentence for a neighborhood that has been sustaining blows for more than 60 years, which no one in the local or national leadership cares about.”