Bridging the Differences

A group of residents from Nahalat Yitzhak in Tel Aviv is opposing plans for a bridge linking their neighborhood with the principal business center (PBC) in the north of the city. They claim it will bring heavy traffic from Ramat Gan and Givatyim and lower their quality of life.

The bridge does not actually pass through their neighborhood but the residents will file a formal objection with the District Planning and Building Committee in Tel Aviv that is considering approval for the bridge project.

The planned Emek Bracha Bridge will link Yigal Alon Street with the northern section of the PBC in Tel Aviv, beginning at the Azrieli Towers.

It is to facilitate access to various projects at the site, including Egged House, the Tnuva building, Karden House, the Recital functions hall and the Ha'ela building. These projects have hundreds of residential units and therefore require a suitable transportation solution.

Moshe Kaufman, one of the activists in Nahalat Yitzhak, says the bridge will turn the quiet neighborhood into "a residential island within a traffic island." As a result, he continues, the 5,000 residents of the neighborhood will be forced to deal with heavy traffic congestion, noise and air pollution on a daily basis, as well as the increased threat of road accidents.

Members of the environmental group, Green Forum, who are helping the residents in their struggle against the municipality, say the bridge, as it appears in the plans, constitutes a clear violation of understandings reached with the residents.

The plans presented by the Tel Aviv municipality to resident representatives show a two-lane bridge, but the plans submitted for approval to the District Planning and Building Committee suggest a four-lane overpass. Furthermore, say members of the forum, the bridge will serve as a shortcut to Tel Aviv and a way of bypassing the traffic jams along the Moses Bridge and the bridge over Parashat Drachim Street.

The traffic arrangements shown to the residents, the environmentalists add, indicate no access to the bridge from Emek Ha'bracha Street, but such plans are not stipulated in any other blueprints.

The forum also charges that promises made by Tel Aviv City Hall that the bridge will also serve cyclists and pedestrians have not been upheld, as the plans do not include any appropriate access routes for such traffic.

Although activists in Nahalat Yitzhak know they are unable to stop the building of the bridge altogether, they are looking to prevent any access from their neighborhood. "We want the bridge to allow for only left or right turns, with no direct route in the direction of the neighborhood," they say. Kaufman adds that the response of those living in Nahalat Yitzhak to the opposition has been good and the activists are hoping to see most join the struggle against the municipality, to protect their quality of life.

The CEO of Netivei Ayalon, Yehuda Bar-On, says the company is currently moving forward with a town building plan to expand the northern segment of Yigal Alon Street and open an alternative access route to the bridge other than via Emek Ha'bracha Street.

Bar-On adds that, in light of the large number of residential units planned for construction in the northern PBC, the bridge is clearly a necessity. Nevertheless, he adds, together with the construction of the bridge, there is a need to look into transportation options that will restrict access to the neighborhood.

Tel Aviv City Engineer Danny Kaiser says the municipality agrees with the standpoint of the residents. In other words, he agrees there is a need for a narrow bridge that will include access for pedestrians. Kaiser says the plan submitted to the District Planning and Building Committee is subject to directives from the Transportation Ministry, adding that the municipality had initiated the construction of a pedestrian bridge that would allow access from the neighborhood toward the courts of law in Tel Aviv.

"The Transportation Ministry is pressing for the construction of a wide bridge that will provide a transport solution for the northern PBC," he says. "In any event, the municipality will work toward ensuring that only a right turn can be made from the bridge, to prevent vehicular traffic into Emek Ha'bracha Street."