The Israel Airports Authority (IAA) on Wednesday published the first tenders for the construction of a new international airport slated to be built in Timna, near Eilat.
The new airport, which will be located 18 kilometers (11.2 miles) north of Eilat, will be a point of transit for both domestic and international flights and provide an alternative emergency landing site to Ben-Gurion International Airport just outside of Tel Aviv.
It will also replace the smaller domestic airport currently located downtown Eilat. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said the closure of the downtown airport will free up land for development in the heart of the southern resort city and significantly improve Eilat residents' quality of life.
"The publication of the first tenders is a historic day for the city of Eilat and the State of Israel," Katz said. "This will enable, for the first time, an alternative international airport to be established, from which large jets will be able to take off to all destinations in Europe."
The new airport in Timna will be named for Ilan Ramon, the Israeli astronaut killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, and Assaf Ramon, Ilan's son who was killed in an F-16 training accident in 2009.
The first tenders, totaling around 150 million shekels ($39.5 million), include the construction of earthworks and infrastructure, the relocation of existing infrastructure (i.e. water and electric lines), drilling and other preparatory activities.
The Ramon Airport project is expected to cost around NIS 1.7 billion ($447.3 million). The project was approved last year by the government after being frozen for years.
The construction will take place in three stages over a span of 3-4 years.
Ramon Airport will be able to handle around two millions passengers annually. The airport's runway will be 3.5 kilometers (2.2 miles) in length.
As part of the project, the portion of the Arava Highway between Eilat and Timna will be widened to four lanes, two in each direction. The journey from the city center to the airport will take 10 minutes. In the future, the airport will also be connected to the city by rail.