One month since convening in April, the Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee has received a report by the Jerusalem Transportation team endorsing the original plan to route the light rail through Emek Refaim, re:Jerusalem has learned. The report will inform the final decision which is expected the next time the committee meets on May 13th.
Four alternatives to the original plan were explored, including closing off Emek Refaim to automobile traffic completely, moving the light rail to the neighboring Park HaMesila, tunneling below the park to divert the train underground, and completely bypassing the neighborhood (“Option Zero”). In the end, however, the team agreed that a light rail on Emek Refaim would be the ideal solution both economically and for the good of the future of public transit in Jerusalem.
For over a year since the plan for Emek Refaim was revealed to the public at a meeting at Ginot HaIr, there has been an effort to prevent the project from moving forward by local residents and businesses. After months of meetings and fundraising to produce a new plan, creating an underground tunnel was considered the best option by the anti-light rail camp. When presented to the team, however, the idea was almost immediately rejected due to its estimated cost of over one billion shekels.
The remaining alternatives were ruled out based on traffic, environmental, and economic factors.
If the committee agrees with the findings in the report, the 330 million shekel Emek Refaim segment will be built over the span of an estimated three years. The Blue Line, of which this segment is a part, is scheduled to begin running in 2023. When completed, it will connect Gilo to Ramot and serve tens of thousands of commuters daily.