Israel's Highway 1, a key east-west artery linking Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, is getting a long-overdue $800-million upgrade. The project involves expanding to six lanes a winding 16-kilometer, four-lane segment that runs through the Judean Hills as well as construction of new supporting infrastructure.
Twin 650-meter-long tunnels, two 800-m-long parallel bridges and new interchanges will replace the existing highway, which winds through steep terrain and is one of the country's busiest arteries.
Three of the five tenders for the design-build project already have been issued, and the other two will be out later this year. Attempts to control traffic by banning trucks during the morning rush hour have failed to have any impact on highway congestion.
"This is by far the most complex highway project ever undertaken in Israel [because] it involves leaving two lanes open in each direction during the entire period of construction," says David Landesman, a manager at David Landesman Engineers Ltd., Ra'anana, which was hired by the Israel National Roads Co. to serve as project manager.
Landesman says a 6-km-long highway section will be raised by six meters in order to minimize the need for drilling. The parallel bridges will replace a particularly dangerous section known as "the Motza curve."
However, one key project challenge is the bridges' planned location just above a Biblical-era archaeological site, entailing close work with Israel's Archeological Authority. Also planned is an ecological bridge that will connect both sides of the highway and enable animals to cross safely.
While two million cu m of earth will be dug and re-used along the route, another 700,000 cu m will be imported.
"Foreign firms are expected to be in charge of the tunneling as local firms lack the necessary expertise," Landesman says.
This summer, construction is set to start simultaneously on all five segments of the project, with completion scheduled for mid-2016.
Highway 1 was first paved by the Ottoman Turks in the 19th century and factored in major battles in Israel's War of Independence in 1948 and in the Six-Day War in 1967.