Traffic jam along Route 1
Traffic jam along Route 1Nati Shohat/Flash 90

Committee Against the Opening of Harel Tunnel member Ido Efroni told Arutz Sheva that the Transportation Ministry is trying to solve a country-wide problem at the expense of Mevasseret Zion's residents.

Mevasseret Zion is a Jewish town just outside Jerusalem and often considered to be one of Jerusalem's more upscale suburbs.

"Mevasseret Zion residents have become invisible, and it's a huge problem," Efroni said. " All of the traffic between Mevasseret and Jerusalem or the center of the country goes through a single road. This is a town of 30,000 residents, and if there's an accident on Route 1, no one can enter or exit the town.

"During one of the fires this past summer, firefighting vehicles got stuck on the road and couldn't reach us. There's been tremendous harm to those residents who rely on public transportation, because they used to walk down to Harel Interchange and now they're stuck. They need to travel a kilometer and a half to Abu Ghosh, and there's no way to get there.

"Today I saw a couple walking from Harel Interchange to Ein Hemed Interchange to catch a bus. It's dangerous. And I say, how can it be that they didn't think of what would happen if there was an emergency, or a security problem? How would they reach Mevasseret?

"They tell us everything will be fine, that there will be an additional entrance to our town which faces Jerusalem - but that will only happen in three years.

"We intend to continue to fight, and we insist the Transportation Ministry provide shuttles from Mevasseret to Ein Hemed Interchange for free, starting now. And it should not have to be paid for by the Regional Council or the residents.

"The Transportation Minister told Israeli citizens that he is taking care of all Israeli citizens, and the residents of Mevasseret Zion have to deal with this inconvenience. That's inappropriate and dense. Our Regional Council Head is also a Likud member, and unfortunately we found out that he's worked in the past with the Transportation Minister and claims this construction is for our good but that we don't see it.

"It makes us really upset, because in Mevasseret there are two Likud members, and they're also our Knesset representatives. We expected them to help us fight," Efroni concluded.

The Transportation Ministry responded, "The Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road has been upgraded and a third lane has been added along its entire length. We are fixing the dangerous curves, sharp turns, and steep climbs in order to dramatically improve the highway's safety and relieve traffic jams.

"This important initiative has been approved by all relevant offices, and all petitions submitted by Mevasseret Zion's residents have been delayed by every committee which read them.

"We have provided good alternatives to allow residents of Mevasseret Zion and surrounding towns to easily reach Jerusalem.

"The upgraded road will allow all Israelis to travel quickly and safely to and from Jerusalem. For residents of Mevasseret Zion, who will travel through the Harel tunnels, the trip to Jerusalem will be lengthened by a kilometer and a half, but because of the improvements to the road, the trip from Jerusalem to Mevasseret will take less time, not more.

"From January 20, three new bus lines will run from Mevasseret Zion to Ein Hemed Interchange, connecting the town's residents to the new bus stop. There is also a new bus line which runs directly from Mevasseret Zion to Tel Aviv. These lines provide adequate public transportation for those living in and around Mevasseret Zion."

Mevasseret Zion Local Council Head Yoram Shimon said, "I empathize with residents' concerns about the changes currently affecting our town. Since the tunnels have opened...I have worked with Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) and CEO of Netivei Israel Nissim Peretz to advance solutions which will help transportation to and from the town, as well as within it. There will be an additional entrance from the city, and we will open a temporary entrance in the coming days.

"These changes improve the town's accessibility as well as traffic within Mevasseret itself," Ktaz concluded.