Aging Bridge Pressured By Heavy Loads weights

The signs on the dilapidated Tuk Thla bridge warning “Max­i­mum 20 tons” are clearly visible to tra­v­­­elers on National Route 5 be­tween Poipet and Sisophon, the pro­­vincial center of Banteay Meanchey.

The problem is that transport company drivers don’t seem to care, piling as much as 50 tons on one vehicle, said Banteay Mean­chey’s Public Works and Trans­­port director, Saing Savath.

“We used to instruct all companies to follow the traffic law, but they never do,” he said.

With about 70 trucks crossing the aging bridge each day, the dis­re­­gard for weight limits is rapidly de­­­­stroying the structure, said Saing Savath.

The heaviest trucks have caused entire logs to come loose and fall off, he said.

For the past 20 days, the bridge has been closed for repairs for about six hours a day, causing mas­sive traffic jams, he said.

While government officials complain about damage to the bridge, the owner of one shipping company, who did not wish to be named, said his trucks must carry large amounts of goods in order to make a profit after paying off check­point officials on the road to Phnom Penh.

There are no fewer than five checkpoints along the 48 km stretch of Route 5 between Poipet and Sisophon, said one local journalist who covers transportation is­sues in the province.

Customs officials, Camcontrol, ec­onomic police and local law en­force­ment officers all have re­portedly taken bribes from transport vehicles at the checkpoints, the journalist said.

But that’s no excuse for disobeying weight limits, Saing Savath said. To ensure that trucks are not ov­er­loaded, he has asked the Pub­lic Works and Trans­port Min­istry to set up weigh stations in Poi­pet and in other provincial locations.

“All com­petent authorities should co­op­erate,” he said, adding that pro­vin­cial departments cannot en­force the law alone.

The latest repairs to the bridge should be finished by Wednesday, Saing Savath said. The repairs will have cost $12,000, he said.


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