Moving. Cross-Israel Highway is part of $4-billion road program.

After close to two years of delay, the Israeli government is pushing ahead with plans to extend the Cross-Israel Highway, Israel’s first toll road. The extension is part of a $4-billion, five-year plan to invest in the country’s highways.

Israel’s Transport Ministry signed a build-operate-transfer agreement with an Israeli-led consortium, which also includes Cana-dian Highways International Corp., to build an 18-kilometer northern segment. The ministry is also planning a 34-km southern extension.

“Without completion of the northern and southern segments, the project will not serve its original purpose of linking the periphery with the center of the country,” says Transport Minister Meir Sheetrit. Plans call for completion of the new segments by mid-2008 at a cost of $350 million. This represents about half of the highway’s planned 300-km route. When complete, it will run from Be’er Sheva in the south to Rosh Pina and Nahariya in the north.

Other projects include two major east-west highways in the center of Israel. Five consortiums are currently bidding for a 20-km, $400-million highway to link Israel’s Mediterranean coast road with the Cross-Israel and serve the northern Tel Aviv region. A similar planned project in scale will link the new city of Modi’in and the Ayalon Freeway south of Tel Aviv.

In Haifa, the Carmel Tunnel project, which has been delayed for nearly a decade, is moving ahead. Developers signed a financing deal to cover most of the cost of the $300-million project, which involves two 5-km-long mountain tunnels that will allow traffic to bypass the city center below. Bids for tunneling work will be issued in coming weeks. Completion of the project is scheduled for 2010.