As the new Sihanoukville expressway opened over the weekend, one set of road signs stood out: an apparent directive for “no axes,” which a company official later explained was meant to remind motorists to not cut down forests along the road.
The Transport Ministry has now asked the road operator to redesign the signs to avoid confusion — part of a small number of oddities in an otherwise smooth and quiet opening weekend.
Some 9,000 cars on Saturday traveled the 190-km, $2-billion expressway, and another 14,000 vehicles used the road on Sunday, the second day after the grand opening. The road is open free of charge for the month of October.
Transport Ministry spokesman Heang Sotheayuth said the opening was positive, though 10 cars were found to have stopped on the side of the 120-km/h expressway.
“We’ve tried to guide them at first about this case. This is really dangerous,” he said, explaining that stopping on the expressway was only allowed in emergencies. “It will be a fine in the future, but the national police will be soft and guide and educate them first.”
Cars, trucks and trailers must all travel at least 60 km/h, with maximum limits varying from 120 km/h for cars, 100 km/h for trucks and buses, and 80 km/h for trailers. Motorcycles must be at least 500 cc.
Sotheayuth added that the ministry had received information about the “no axes” signs, as well as public confusion and mockery of them.
“This is not a traffic sign but to prevent tree cutting as the area has a lot of trees. We see it has good intentions. We asked the company to remove it and make a better one that’s clearer about trees.”
At least four of the signs were seen by reporters in Preah Sihanouk.
A call to the Cambodian PPSHV Expressway company earlier in the day was answered by a Chinese-speaking man and translator who declined to give their names.
They explained that the signs were intended to stop people from cutting down trees. “That place is a conservation area,” they said.
Last week, transport authorities found that nearby residents had cut down barbed wire fencing around the expressway so they could graze cows and sell food by the road.
Transport Ministry spokesman Pal Chandara added on Monday that residents had even removed some guardrails last week because they wanted to cross the road without taking a detour to underpasses.
“This is really dangerous when they cut the barrier of the road. We went to educate them and asked them to use the underpass.”
Some 201 crossings and 20 bridges had been prepared along the 190-km expressway, the ministry said.