Red Tape Holding Up Route 65 Safety Work

Two 10-year-olds hurt in latest accident on country's most dangerous highway.

For years residents of the town of Kfar Tavor in the eastern Galilee have been demanding that the state build a traffic circle at the Ussishkin intersection on Route 65. The road is considered a "red road," the site of a large number of fatal accidents, and is one of the most dangerous in the country. Forty-seven people have been killed on the road over the past seven years.

About NIS 1 million has already been invested in building the traffic circle, but the state has backtracked on its commitment to construct it, and the junction has been left in a very dangerous state.

Yesterday, while the High Court of Justice was hearing a petition from the local council against the decision to freeze construction, another traffic accident happened there: Two 10-year-old children were injured as they walked on a crosswalk at the junction, which connects the older part of town to a new neighborhood. One of the children is in serious condition, and the other, in moderate condition.

The accident occurred around 1:30 P.M. Witnesses said a car coming from the Golani intersection north of Kfar Tavor overtook another vehicle that had stopped at the crosswalk to let the children pass, and hit them. One child was thrown 10 meters by the blow, and then was hit by another car coming from the opposite direction. He was transfered by a helicopter to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. The other child was taken to Haemek Hospital in Afula with fractures in his arms and legs. He was later transfered to Rambam due to fears that he had also suffered a head injury. The driver was detained for questioning.

The speed limit near the junction is 50 kilometers per hour, but local residents have many hair-raising stories about the place. "Drivers 'fly' here like it's Route 6 [the Trans-Israel Highway]. We are always warning people. Now, to our sorrow, maybe something will happen," said Bar Idel, 14.

"The drivers pay no attention to the law and road conditions that require them to drive slowly. There are a lot of accidents here, only last week there was one," said Ofek Barsheshet, another teenager.

The Transportation Ministry and the National Roads Company are very familiar with the residents' complaints. It was decided in 2002 to build a traffic circle at the Ussishkin intersection at a cost of NIS 7 million - even though other plans to improve the safety of the southern part of Route 65, from Afula to the the Golani junction, had still not been approved. A large sign announcing the new circle was even put up, saying work would be finished by May 2009.

NIS 1 million alone was spent on planning and compensation fees for expropriated land, but four years after the project was announced, the state reneged on its commitment. In response, the local council petitioned the High Court a year ago.