U NITED STATES contractors Fischback International will rebuild nine new bridges and repair 30 others as part of their $24 million facelift of Route 4 between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville.
Work is expected to start soon and be finished by April 1996.
Co-Prime Ministers Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen presided over the ground-breaking ceremony on Oct 25, together with American Ambassador Charles Twining and Public Works Minister Ing Kiet.
Route 4 was originally built with American aid between 1956 and 1959.
During years of war and natural disasters the highway, the main link between Cambodia's capital and its only sea port, had seriously deteriorated.
Ranariddh said: "The United States promptly accepted our proposal [to repair the highway] as a top priority.
"There was an urgent need for our people to move forward for the economic development of the country.
"This transportation network facilitates not only export of Cambodia natural resources, but the import of all kinds of products to help the rehabilitation of commercial, agricultural and social sectors," he said.
Ranariddh said he was convinced that rural development, tourism and the transport and communications network would flourish with the completion of the new highway.
Kiet said the road would be seven meters wide with a 2.5m shoulder on both sides. As many as 300 Cambodians would be employed on the project, and 175 foreign workers.
The $24 million will be drawn from USAID, and Fischbach had been selected as contractor by the United States government.
The Post has previously reported that the project had angered some Cambodian construction companies who had complained of being frozen out, and that 75 percent of the work had been sub-contracted out to Thai companies.
One Cambodian construction company also complained that Fischbach had no road building experience.
Parts of the highway were mined or had unexploded ordinance nearby, and Khmer Rouge activity had increased in the area this year.
However, more recently police and army officials have made a commitment to beef up security along both Routes 3 and 4 and to root out illegal checkpoints.