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Cracks discovered in bridge

A view of the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge (right) in Phnom Penh
A view of the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge (right) in Phnom Penh yesterday. Trucks over 2.5 tonnes will no longer be able to cross the bridge after cracks were found in a support pillar. Eli Meixler

Cracks discovered in bridge

The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation (MPWT) and the Phnom Penh municipality are preparing a ban on heavy trucks crossing the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge after cracks were discovered in a pillar on the bridge’s eastern end, a City Hall official confirmed yesterday.

At a meeting on Wednesday led by MPWT Secretary of State Toch Chan Kosal and Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Chreang Sophan, officials determined that the nearly 50-year-old bridge – also known as the Chroy Changvar bridge – was in need of repairs, and would be off-limits to vehicles weighing more than 2.5 tonnes while those repairs were under way.

“We will not allow trucks that have weights above 2.5 tonnes to cross the Chroy Changvar bridge, because it is very old now, and we have to repair some parts of the bridge after an expert official found some cracks in a pillar,” he said. “We have to do prevention first, because some accident might happen, and then who is responsible?”

The ban will go into effect once the ministry officially recommends it to City Hall, he added.

The MPWT’s Chan Kosal could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The Chroy Changvar bridge was first constructed in the late 1960s, and its central span was destroyed during Cambodia’s long-running civil war, said Masahiko Egami, the head of ground transport issues at the Japanese International Cooperation Agency who attended Wednesday’s meeting.

Though the central span was rebuilt with funding and technical expertise from the Japanese government in 1993, he continued, the part of the bridge where the cracks were found – the eastern approach segment – was part of the original ’60s-era structure.

Noting Cambodia’s “rapid development”, Egami said that ever-increasing traffic loads had put a strain on the bridge over the years.

“Considering the age of [the] bridge and the timing of the design of the bridge, it was very difficult for the engineers to anticipate the amount of traffic [there would be] today,” he said.

“Also, 50 years is quite long, so it is not an exceptional case to find such cracks in a structure,” he added.

While the cracks are “kind of serious”, Egami continued, the MPWT had been prompt in considering appropriate measures to address the issue, such as the ban on heavier vehicles, and a plan to install temporary pylons to alleviate strain on the affected pillar.

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