Tourist Tip #159 / Hanetiv Hamahir - The Fast Lane to Tel Aviv

Time is money and the express lane from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv puts a price on your patience to wait in traffic or breeze on by.

Driving from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv during rush hour can be a wearisome experience, with bumper-to-bumper traffic from well outside the city boundaries. The fast lane to Jerusalem is a 13-kilometer stretch from the Ben-Gurion airport intersection with Route 1, ending at the second highway exit to Tel Aviv, the Kibbutz Galuyot exit. But unlike the highway, the fast lane to Jerusalem isn’t free.

In fact, it is Israel's second toll road, following the controversial construction (for environmental and social reasons) of the first toll highway, Route 6. But there's no barrier and toll collection booth at the entrance. The system is automated: a scanner will read your license number as you pass the entrance. If you are a frequent user you can subscribe; if using the toll lane infrequently you can simply pay the bill that arrives in the mail.

If you're a visitor in a rented vehicle, the bill will go to the rental agency, which will happily pass the fee onto you.

Or, you can pay cash for using the lane at the Shafirim parking lot, which brings us to another feature of driving into Tel Aviv: the option to park outside the city for free, in a lot provided by the toll road management company. The car park is by the Shafirim intersection. The company provides frequent free shuttle service into the city from 6 A.M. to 11 P.M., with two stops: at the Ramat Gan diamond exchange and on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv.

Note that the company's customer-service hotline only operates from 7 A.M. to 6 P.M. on weekdays and until 12 P.M. on Friday and holiday eves.

The cost of taking the toll lane varies with congestion. The more congested the highway, the more taking the fast lane will cost. The minimum is NIS 7 and the maximum is NIS 75. But it isn't a secret until you get your bill in the mail: a digital signpost at the entrance to the toll lane tells you the charge at that moment.

There is one exception: car pools. More clearly - cars with four occupants: the driver and three passengers – can travel for free. But they have to go by the Shafirim parking lot and register for the exemption.

One last point. Do not be beguiled by the drivers whizzing by at speeds approaching that of sound. The speed limit in the fast lane is the same as the highway, usually 100 kph, and the speed limit in the parking lot is the same as in populated areas, i.e., 50 kph.

Moti Milrod