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Repairs will see Japanese bridge off limits for two years

A man inspects the underside of the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge in Phnom Penh last year after cracks were found in a support pillar.
A man inspects the underside of the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge in Phnom Penh last year after cracks were found in a support pillar. Heng Chivoan

Repairs will see Japanese bridge off limits for two years

Residents of Phnom Penh’s north end should prepare for more traffic congestion starting early next year after government officials said the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge to Chroy Changvar would close for nearly two years.

Public Works and Transport Minister Sun Chanthol said the bridge, built in 1963, was in need of renovation.

“The bridge is old and was damaged during wartime, so JICA [Japan International Cooperation Agency] studied the foundations and determined that new pillars must be built to avoid accidents,” Chanthol said.

The renovation is scheduled to take 22 months, leaving officials scrambling to find ways to solve what will inevitably be a major increase in traffic jams caused by the prolonged closure of one of the two parallel city-centre bridges that connect to the peninsula.

The second bridge is the Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge, which opened in 2015. Currently each bridge carries traffic in one direction. However, Run Rothvesna, director of public order in the Ministry of Interior’s Police Department, said the new bridge would be made two-way while renovations are under way.

“We will have to wait for the renovation in order to know how bad the congestion will be, but we are well prepared,” Rothvesna said Wednesday at a government meeting.

Officials are looking at other measures, including providing free ferry service and even redirecting traffic to the Prek Pnov Bridge, which is 12 kilometres further north.

Despite the contingency plans, Chanthol said he hopes JICA will complete the renovation quickly. The bridge was last renovated in 1994.

“I have urged JICA to finish the renovation as soon as possible, because it would be better if it were completed before the stated 22 months,” he said. “We urge them to work day and night in order to reduce the congestion period.”

A JICA official said the organisation believed residents would be patient and recognise that the renovation was in the city’s best interest.

“We understand that further congestion will be expected. However, we sincerely believe that Phnom Penh citizens understand that improvement of the bridge is necessary and important for sustainable infrastructure development,” said Chin Kimheang, program officer at JICA.

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