Driving Heaven or
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Planned superhighway has
its pros and cons.
efore the year is out, con-
struction may begin in Is-
rael on a 100-meter-wide
springboard into the 21st
Route No. 6, a planned eight-
lane superhighway running up
the spine of the country, would
be the most significant infra-
structure project in Israel since
the construction of the Nation-
al Water Carrier in the 1950s.
Reaching from the heart of
the Negev to the Lebanese bor-
der, it would, say its planners,
bring the center of the country
and the periphery close to each
other and spare the Tel Aviv
metropolitan region from stran-
gulation in one enormous grid-
The most worrying chart of
all is the one showing vehicles
per 1,000 population. The U.S.
leads with 846, followed by Ger-
many, 615; England, 430; and
Spain, 475. Israel is at the bot-
tom with 213.
"This means that Israeli traf-
fic still has great potential for
growth," says Levy, a former
IDF chief of staff. "Even Spain,
whose economy isn't all that de-
veloped, has twice as many cars
Immigration and a marked
growth in the standard of living
have bought down upon Israel
enormous traffic jams in recent
years. Average annual increase
in vehicles has been 6 percent
compared to about 1 percent in
make the highway a toll road
built by private investors.
"There is a financing aspect,"
says Levy, "and a moral aspect:
whether we have the right to
ask drivers who are already
taxed and also pay a progres-
sive tax on petrol to pay again
for use of the road."
Foreign consultants are ex-
amining the toll aspect, includ-
ing the willingness of Israeli
drivers to pay for use of a toll
"People used to think that
paying for parking was outra-
geous, but they don't any more,"
The central road section,
stretching for 90 kilometers
from a point east of Ashdod to
18 , ;.
Roads in Israel are getting more congested.
There are opponents who be-
lieve otherwise. The road, they
say, would be a brutal imposi-
tion on Israel's frail landscape
and would hasten urban sprawl
into rapidly shrinking rural ar-
eas in the center of the country.
The graphs on the Tel Aviv
desk of Moshe Levy, chairman
of the government-owned Cross-
Israel Highway Company, pre-
sent the justification for the road
in stark figures. In 1970, there
were 200,000 motor vehicles in
Israel. In 1992, there were
1,200,000, a sixfold growth. By
2000, if present trends continue,
there will be two million. A chart
showing vehicles per paved kilo-
meter of road in a number of in-
dustrialized countries places
Israel at the top of the list with
80. Following are Britain with
61; Germany, 59; Japan, 52; and
the U.S., 30.
most developed countries. In
1992, it was 9 percent.
The proposed highway would
run for 280 kilometers from an
industrial area south of Beer-
sheba to Rosh Hanikra on the
Lebanese border. At Yokne'am,
the road would split, sending an
offshoot into the eastern Galilee
toward the Syrian border. Esti-
mated cost is $1.5 billion to $2 bil-
lion, including land expropriation.
The new road would signifi-
cantly extend the commuting
range from Tel Aviv.
"People would be able to com-
mute from Kiryat Gat, for in-
stance, in 30 to 40 minutes,"
says Levy. At least as important
as this function would be the
road's role as a bypass around
the clogged Tel Aviv metropol-
A major question currently
being pondered is whether to
Hadera, would contain four
lanes in either direction. The
remainder of the highway
would vary between two and
three lanes in each direction.
The highway's central section
would run near the Green Line,
about 15 kilometers east of the
coast. The National Planning
Council is to begin final discus-
sions on the plan within a
month. If approved, it goes to
the government and then, in an
unusual move, to the Knesset,
which will be asked to enact
special legislation that will per-
mit an accelerated expropria-
"If we get approval," says
Levy, "we hope to finish this
stretch in six to seven years."
There is no target date for-
completing the remainder of the
DRIVING page 36
Ed]: Telecom reported lower
fourth-quarter profits after
charges related to its acqui-
sition of Florida-based Telma-
atics, but its full year profits
were up 16 percent.
The Petah 'rikva firm re-
ported a 1993 net profit of $52.7
million. Without the merger em-
sass it .Wo 1d h e et d
1.9 million, 37% higher than
1992's $45.3 million.
During the past year, total
sales for the telecounnunica-
tions leader rose by 30 percent
to $295.7 million, while gross
profit rose 25 percent to $166.6