Plans are in motion to give the Ayalon, Israel’s busiest thoroughfare, a massive makeover that will see its eight lanes and two railroads roofed over and covered with a stunning new park. This 60-acre, $525 million “hanging garden” – which will include sports and recreation areas, cycling trails and coffee shops – could turn the highway, an infamous source of pollution and noise, into a green oasis in the heart of Tel Aviv.
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Last week, Tel Aviv’s urban planning committee approved a complex master plan that will cover the Ayalon Highway – which dissects the metropolis from north to south – into a beautiful “green lung” covered with lawns, trees, shrubbery and walking trails, in what the city dubs “Israel’s largest municipal project.”
The multi-year project, which may take another year before it is fully approved, will “overhaul Tel Aviv’s central business district, connecting its eastern side to its center,” city officials said in a statement. Because it will be build on top of existing infrastructure and “maximize the use of existing land”, it is an environment friendly project, the city argues.
“This project is an environmental and architectural milestone for Tel Aviv,” city council member Itay Pinkas, head of the project’s steering committee, said in a statement. “This project will likely grab international attention, because it will be built over the Middle East’s busiest infrastructure strip, which includes roads, railroads, train stations, sewage, electricity and communication lines.”
Furthermore, Pinkas said, “the vast park in the heart of Israel’s largest metropolitan area will solve the scarcity of public land in the city, and reduce air and noise pollution. It will become a source for pride.”
The country’s busiest highway sees 750,000 vehicles a day
The Ayalon Highway, also known as Route 20, is the most congested highway in the country, and one of the busiest in the Middle East, with 750,000 crossing every day.
Critics of the plan argue that the steep half a billion price tag could instead go towards improvements in Tel Aviv’s transportation system, including building an underground railway. Others point to the project’s grandiosity and the challenges in raising enough funds to complete it.
In any case, the new master plan for the Ayalon Highway, prepared by local firm Lerman Architects, is subject to further approvals by county planners. If approved, the construction is likely to start only three years from now at the earliest.