Major street closures surrounding construction of the first phase of the Tel Aviv light rail system began on 3 August – with none of the major traffic disruption that had been anticipated by residents and business owners.
Commenting on business owners’ unsuccessful legal bid to delay the project over fears around the negative impacts of construction, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said: “Business owners need to adjust. We will help them physically with accessibility. I hope that like today the fear is greater than the reality and that businesses will continue to flourish.”
“Light rail construction began, and the sky didn’t fall,” Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz also told local media. “Traffic was even flowing.”
“It’s a historic day,” added Huldai. “We are beginning a very important project… that will improve life for many people when it is completed. I call on everyone to be patient. There will be traffic jams tomorrow. They’ll say it’s because of the train, as if there were no traffic jams yesterday. We’ve had traffic jams in Tel Aviv for many years. At the end of the day, this project is supposed to improve public transportation, so it’s worth the effort.”
Many main roads will be closed, turned into one-way streets, or be off limits to private vehicles during construction of the 23km (14.3-mile) Red line that links Petah Tikva and Bat Yam through the heart of the city in a project expected to take six years. The city’s police have been allocated 168 additional staff to deal with issues associated with the construction project, but so far none have been recruited.
Project promoter NTA completed four park-and-ride sites in advance of the launch of the first construction sites to encourage drivers to take public transportation.
The Red line is the first in a planned nine-line network of LRT and BRT systems, a simplified version of which is available here.