Cabinet Passes PM Transport Program

The cabinet yesterday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's transportation infrastructure reform by a large majority in a special session, 19-4. One, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, abstained. The NIS 27.5 billion project is scheduled to be carried out between 2010 and 2020.

"Finally, after 62 years, we've decided to connect the Negev and the Galilee, and to break northward and southward beyond what's been called the state of Hadera-Gedera," said Netanyahu after the vote.

Netanyahu estimated that the plan would increase Israel's GDP by 2% and said he would not give up on a train line to Eilat, which was left out of the plan. It would be a massive investment and probably take more than a decade to build, but it would "give Israel's citizens fast transportation without traffic and with a bit of rest," he said.

Netanyahu's economic adviser Uri Yogev presented the plan to the ministers. Yogev's original plan would have cost at least 2.5 times more than the one that was passed yesterday. The new plan calls for train lines from Haifa to Beit She'an and from Acre to Carmiel, as well as more roads, including extending the Trans-Israel Highway to the northwest.

The Finance Ministry objects to the Acre-Carmiel line, which will cost NIS 7 billion alone. It backs the roadway component of the plan, as well as making Israel's trains electric.

For budgetary reasons, it wants to see the project put into place by 2025, not 2020.