Repairs and upgrades are finally coming to National Road 4, including for a damaged stretch in Kampong Speu that has seen taxi drivers using detours to avoid potholes.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has been talking of repairs to the road since at least January, when he said Americans had built the road but abandoned financing it, and World Bank loan procedures were taking too long to fulfill.
On Tuesday, Pheng Sovicheano, Transport Ministry secretary of state, said the ministry had now completed the bidding process for National Road 4 upgrades between Phnom Penh and Preah Sihanouk, and work would start between the middle of November and early December this year.
Some 196 km of road from Phnom Penh’s Cham Chao roundabout to Sihanoukville’s international airport would be repaired and widened by four different companies, Sovicheano said.
“We are planning to extend the width of the road from its current size of 7 meters to 10, and build eight more bridges in addition to the [current] 46 in order to prevent the road from flooding when there is rain,” he said.
Sovicheano added that the budget for the work was $116 million, of which $110 million would come from a World Bank loan and another $6 million from the government. The project is scheduled to finish in 2026.
Currently, some parts of the road are in poor shape near weighbridges and its intersection with National Road 41 in Kampong Speu. Sovicheano said the ministry had a construction team on standby to repair those areas, but rain made it hard for the team to do their work.
“The National Road 4 is not badly damaged, but there are just some small parts of it,” he said. “The construction team needs to wait until the weather turns to normal.”
Despite the opening of the new Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway, many heavy trucks continued to use National Road 4, he said.
Deng Savorak, a Preah Sihanouk-Phnom Penh taxi driver, said the most badly affected parts of National Road 4 were around Thnal Totueng market, on the border of Kampong Speu’s Samraong Tong district and Kandal province.
“The road has been severely affected within these past two months. It is so difficult to drive through these areas. There are huge potholes and thick dust on 2 km of the road. Therefore, I find a detour to avoid this difficult part of the road,” he said.
Huon Dina, a resident living in Phnom Penh but who often travels on this road to his hometown in Kampong Speu’s Odong district, said it was a safety concern for those who, like him, travel on motorbikes as the road is too small for the large number of vehicles on the road. It had been getting worse, with more parts of the road getting damaged, Dina said.
“Everyone, not only me, is worried when using this road. Because it is so small, and there are a lot of trucks traveling along. So what I am worried about the most is traffic accidents,” he said.
In January, speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for an infrastructure project on National Road 48 in Koh Kong province, Prime Minister Hun Sen criticized the World Bank for its complicated procedure for giving loans, saying it takes too long to complete each project.
“It is not that we do not want to repair National Road 4. But it is an American-built road, and we do not know whom we should ask for help besides them. So we need to wait. We now have support from the World Bank, yet it takes one or two years for just the bidding,” Hun Sen said. “It is a complicated procedure. But they said this procedure makes things transparent. Yes, it is transparent. Therefore, let us continue walking in the mud now.”
“We do not know what to do since it is the procedure of the international financial institution that we need to obey,” he continued. “It is boring sometimes. And we want to use our own budget to widen this road because it is so difficult waiting for them.”