With about 400,000 residents and more than 3.3 million in its metropolitan area, Israel's second-largest city, Tel Aviv, is finally getting a mass transit system. After decades of false starts, work has begun on the first of seven planned lines of a combined light-rail and bus rapid-transit network. Estimated at $2.5 billion, it is the most expensive civilian transport project ever undertaken in Israel.
The launch comes a year after the cancellation of a build-operate-transfer contract awarded in 2006 to the MTS consortium that included Israeli and foreign firms, including Germany's Siemens. The Israeli government then moved to nationalize the project and guarantee financing to push forward the work.