The 24th of June in 2010 marked a historical event in Phnom Penh: the inaugural ceremony of the First Sky Bridge in the Capital City. In 2009, the Phnom Penh Municipality came up with a new solution to aid traffic congestion by building a flyover in the city. In Phnom Penh, the flyover is called the Sky Bridge because it is the first of its kind in the whole country. The government and its citizens were proud to witness the Sky Bridge being built and were delighted upon its completion. The new structure has succeeded in reducing congestion by providing commuters with an impressive new route to their various destinations.
Phnom Penh city now boasts three Sky Bridges that are located in the most congested areas of the city. The first one, named “Kbal Tnol Sky Bridge,” was constructed on the 27th of May in 2009. This 308-meter long bridge cost USD 6.4 million in which the money was raised by leasing Koh Pich Island to Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation, Ltd (OCIC). The bridge is located on the intersection between National Road No.1 and Monivong Bridge, National Road No.2 and Norodom and Monivong Blvd, as well as the Eastern and Southern parts of Cambodia such as: Kandal, Prey Veng, Svay Rieng, Takeo and Kampot province. It is also a mainland tourism route connecting Phnom Penh city to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. As a result, the bridge has become essential to dealing with traffic problems in that area. The second flyover, called “7 Makara Sky Bridge,” kicked off its construction on 29th of December in 2010. This bigger bridge, measuring 345 meters long, was completed in late January in 2012 and cost USD 8.7 million. This flyover was built near Kosomak Hospital and connects the Tuol Kork and Sen Sok districts. Stung Meanchey Sky Bridge, the 3rd flyover in the capital, began construction in late 2012 and is scheduled to open in 2015 (or late 2014 if possible). The 3rd Sky Bridge is much larger than the first two in terms of both size and cost. The USD 18 million flyover consists of five skyways: one main route, three subordinate tracks, and one underground tunnel. The travel lane is divided into three layers: the upper lane, the on-the-ground lane, and the underground lane. Since the Stung Mean Chey flyover consists of so many sections, its construction falls into two phases. In the 1st phase, they are building 2 main flyovers and 1 underground gateway. It should take 18 months to complete and will cost about USD 12 million. The plan for the 2nd phase is to build one connecting flyover and the other 2 flyovers, which will take another 8 months to finish and will cost about USD 5 million.
As stated before, these Sky Bridges are expected help ease traffic congestion around their respective areas. However, experts have found a critical issue with the construction of flyovers. Nasir Hasan, an environmental engineering expert for the World Health Organization, believes that building infrastructure like the Sky Bridges will only solve traffic problems for the short-term. He and other civil society groups claim that traffic congestion can only be solved through long-term national strategies such as following:
1. Law enforcement
One obstacle in easing congestion in Phnom Penh is that drivers do not obey traffic laws. They drive through red lights, make illegal turns, and even drive in the wrong lane causing heavy congestion. Even when some are stopped by traffic police, they can still get away with it after paying a small bribe. Hence, authorities need to enforce the law and follow the proper procedures. More serious punishments should be applied dissuade repeat offenders. Law enforcement is a very important and effective mechanism for coping with traffic. This case is exemplified in other countries like the United State where there are definitive laws and corresponding punishments.
2. Change in attitude
Drivers also need to adopt a more ethical approach to driving. It would be very beneficial if Phnom Penh residents had more respect for traffic laws even when policemen are not around. Unfortunately, not everyone feels that way and the community suffers as a result. In order to improve driving ethics, people need to be better educated on traffic law and be shown how people in other countries practice. This would create a culture in which people would feel that it is their responsibility to follow the law and do it willingly.
3. Infrastructure development
Widening roads, building more flyovers, and designing more efficient roadways will help in dealing with the traffic challenge. The number of vehicles is increasing every day, so it is imperative that there is enough space to accommodate this influx. One example of poor infrastructure is illustrated at Olympic Stop. There is very little space for motorbikes and bicycles because the cars and tuk tuks take up all the space. At rush hour, the Olympic Stop is always jammed because the road cannot fit all the vehicles there. Thus, improving infrastructure in the city is necessary for solving the congestion issue.
4. Public transportation
Another way to ease congestion is through public transportation. In a small country like Singapore, public transportation plays a very essential role to solving the traffic problem. One public bus saves a lot more space than individual vehicles. If public transportation was available throughout Phnom Penh, many people would use it and the traffic congestion would decrease. Hence, the Phnom Penh Municipality must work hard in establishing a public transportation system, or the congestion will continue.
All in all, the Phnom Penh Municipality is on the right track in easing congestion in the city by building more Sky Bridges. However, there are there a number of other important factors that need to be addressed if they want a longer-term solution: law enforcement, change in attitude, infrastructure development, and establishment of public transportation must be listed on the development agenda.
7 Makara Bridge