Light Rail Construction Snarls J'lem Traffic

Ad Feedback - JERUSALEM, Israel - Jerusalem merchants are calling the light rail construction in the city a "catastrophe" that is putting them out of business.

Since the work on the light rail began, navigating city streets has become increasingly frustrating.

On Monday, construction on Jaffa Road, one of the city's major traffic arteries, began a new phase, slated at this time to last two years, which could effectively put many of the merchants out of business permanently.

"This morning they destroyed us," store owner Shimon Malka told Israel Radio. "There is nothing left for us to do here but pack up and go," he said.

Malka believes the city should help relocate stores that may be put out of business by the construction.

Avraham Birenbaum, head of the Jerusalem Merchants Association, said they anticipated the problems the construction would cause city businesses.

"We said the light rail would be a disaster while it was still in its planning stage, and here we have the results before us," Birenbaum said. "For two years, commerce on Jaffa Road and the city center will be destroyed," he said.

Light rail project manager Nadav Maroz said the benefits would outweigh the problems.

"My hope is that the amazing renewal of the city center after 100 years of stagnation and the immense improvement in public transportation as a result of the light rail project will justify the expected disturbances in the daily lives of city residents," he said.

The light rail, originally projected to be running by this time, has been delayed by construction problems, which included tearing up and redoing improperly laid track, among other things.

The cost of the project to the public sector has increased 130 percent since 2000, according to a report by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss.

Source: The Jerusalem Post

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