Phnom Penh’s traffic lights will by mid-2017 no longer feature the presently ubiquitous countdown timer, with the replacement of the city’s 69 fixed signals with 100 new models controlled by officials in a central command centre now underway, an official said yesterday.
Workers last week began installing the 100 new signals, which will be equipped with cameras feeding footage back to a control room inside City Hall, a representative of Public Works and Transport Minister Sun Chanthol said in an email.
“The existing traffic signal system . . . is outdated and ineffective as they are isolated signals operating with a single fixed timing plan, regardless of traffic condition especially during morning and evening peak hours,” the official said.
Funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the system is scheduled to go online by May and will allow officials to keep major arteries open longer during peak-hour periods and better coordinate nearby lights, he said.
“Traffic conditions [will be] continuously monitored by vehicle detectors installed at strategic locations in the road network, and signal timing is dynamically adjusted in real-time to make the most efficient use of the road network,” he said.
“At the meantime, we [are] in the process of installing those new traffic lights in some intersections,” he added. “Without waiting for everything to get ready to launch at once, some traffic lights will be up and running without the control room . . . from January 2017.”
The installation began last week, with workers erecting some of the 31 new sets of signals. The 69 existing fixed-time signals will be replaced later, the official said.
Among the 31 new locations, there will be three sets of signals along the riverfront at the intersection of streets 110, 154 and 240, and on Norodom Boulevard at streets 178, 184 and 240. Street 19 will have a set of lights at the intersection of Street 240.
A set of lights will also be installed at the intersection of Sihanouk Boulevard and Street 51, and two sets will be installed on either side of Aeon Mall on Sothearos Boulevard – one at the intersection by the Almond Hotel, and one south of the Sofitel hotel near Norodom Boulevard.
Another set will be placed on Russian Boulevard at the entrance to the old Boeung Kak lake, near where the Council of Ministers and the Defence Ministry intersect. There will also be two more sets at the northern end of Monivong Bouelvard.
None of the new signals are in operation yet, but the transport official said the initiative will cost about $8 million. JICA, which has for years urged measures to ease traffic congestion and also warned of serious future issues if more is not done now, did not respond to requests for comment.
Ear Chakriya, director of the Institute for Road Safety and a prominent past critic of the government’s handling of the city’s growing traffic issues, said he believed the system would be useful if coupled with better enforcement of the Traffic Law.
He said he had no fears the system could be mismanaged, and that manual control would be an improvement over the current automated system.
“I think that it can be helpful in easing traffic jams, especially at the intersections, because the new traffic lights have cameras so the officials can control them,” he said.
“If they can see that some places have serious jams, they can resolve it.”
Additional reporting by Lay Samean