Lerner and Associates
Planned 60-acre urban park in commercial center would channel traffic into underground tunnel.
An average of 750,000 vehicles drive every day on Israel's most heavily used freeway.

Tel Aviv city officials have given initial approval to an estimated $500-million plan to add a 60-acre roof park over the central segment of the Ayalon Freeway, the busiest transportation artery and densest infrastructure corridor in Israel.

The plan calls for covering a 2-kilometer-long by 100-meter-wide section with a grassy roof, with traffic flowing through a tunnel underneath.

While a freeway roof has long been eyed by city officials, last month's approval is the furthest such a plan has progressed to date, according to Israeli business publication Globes.

“The challenge of the project is in dealing with the infrastructure, including the highway, rail and water that are located along the route that limits where support columns can be placed,” says Edna Lerman, a principal of Tel Aviv-based Lerman Architects & Town Planners Ltd. and head of the project planning team. Another challenge is to stage construction with minimum interference to traffic. About 750,000 vehicles, on average, use the freeway daily.

“We see the project as a link between the eastern and western parts of the city and as a badly needed public space in this part of Tel Aviv [that] has turned into [the city's] commercial heart,” says Etai Pinkas, a city council member and chairman of the project’s steering committee. He says freeway pollution and noise levels now prevent residential building in the area. 

Plans for the park include crisscrossing pedestrian and bicycle bridges and cafes and other recreational facilities to serve the office blocks on both sides of the freeway. 

The Tel Aviv project is similar to the existing downtown urban parks in Boston and Seoul, South Korea, says Pinkas. The Globes publication says the plan will go before additional city agencies early next year.

Experts and top city officials say the project is crucial now before more downtown development gets underway. The area adjacent to the planned park already has millions of square meters of office and commercial space.

Regional planning authorities are expected to approve roof plans by the end of next year. As part of a bridge being built over the freeway, the first 100-ft-long by 50-ft-wide segment is in detailed planning, Lerman adds.   

Municipal officials expect funding to come from increased building rights in the areas adjacent to the planned urban park.

Pinkas says he expects that parts of the project will be completed by 2022 and that the municipality may extend the project southward along the freeway.