Cross Israel on the Go
By Peter Samuel
The Cross Israel Highway project finally managed to do its financial close Oct 28 and is under construction. The toll road is being built by Derech Eretz, a joint venture of developer Africa Israel, builder Shikun UBinui and Canadian Highways International Corp (CHIC). Each has a one third share in the construction contract and in the ownership of the concession, which is building Israels first major toll road. It runs 86km (52mi) parallel to the coast but inland, from southeast of Tel Aviv past the east of the airport and north to H-65 in the direction of Haifa. It involves 13 interchanges, about 90 bridge structures and a short tunnel. Hapoalim of Israel and Newcourt of Toronto arranged the $1.2b financing needed.
The Derech Eretz consortium was chosen in early 1998 and a contract signed with the Israel government Cross Israel Highway Ltd, and work was supposed to start that summer. But the closing was delayed 18 months because of complicated quarrels between the partners and their financial difficulties, associated with east European investments and the ruble.
John Beck head of CHIC which has $40m of equity in the concession, and a one-third share in the $770m construction contract, told us it is a relief to have the project on the way: Weve put some tens of millions into developing this project and it has been extremely difficult getting it to this point. But we are there now. Detailed design work is under way. Earth is being moved and concrete poured. It will be a nice road. Were excited it is on the way at last.