Installation Begins of Light-Rail Bridge at Jerusalem Entrance
The first of eight giant parts of the new light-rail overpass in Jerusalem was placed last night at the entrance to the capital, with the help of Israel's largest crane.
Traffic at the city's western entrance was partially closed for part of the night to allow the 370-ton concrete piece to be installed. An Israel Electric Company crane, used to build the Rotenberg Power Station in Ashkelon and the largest in the country, was rented for the occasion.
Designed by internationally-acclaimed architect Santiago Calatrava, the curved light-rail bridge will be the first of its kind in the world. It will stand six stories high above the ground.
The light-rail system is expected to start operating in early 2009. The train cars are being manufactured in France; Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky visited the plant last month and dedicated the first two cars.
The light-rail line was chosen by Jerusalem residents in a special referendum four years ago. The first route will run 14 kilometers (8.6 miles), from Pisgat Ze'ev in the north to Mt. Herzl in the south, passing through the city's main thoroughfare, Jaffa Rd. There will be 24 stops along the way, and some 250,000 people are expected to use it daily.
Yechiel Horev, Director-General of the Moriah corporation which is managing the project, said, "This bridge is a present from the capital city to its residents on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Jerusalem's re-unification [in the Six Day War of 1967]." He said it would help develop the city center by connecting it to the outlying neighborhoods, "in accordance with a model successfully implemented in other cities around the world."
Not everyone agrees, of course. Objections include the overly grandiose nature of the project and the expected depreciation of property values at the city entrance. Traffic in the area is among the busiest in the country; a tunnel had been considered instead of a bridge, in addition to or enlarging the one that already exists nearby, but was deemed infeasible.
The city already has at least six overpasses: for pedestrians in Ramat Eshkol, Yemin Moshe-Cinematek, Jaffa Gate, and Malcha, and for cars at French Hill-Pisgat Ze'ev and Givat Mordechai.