City Looks to Overhaul Traffic Light System

A solution may be at hand for Phnom Penh’s degenerating traffic congestion problem as Japan’s International Cooperation Agency is readying a project aimed at completely overhauling the city’s non-intuitive traffic light system, City Hall announced Tuesday.

The study, which will begin within the next month and run to the end of January 2015, will roll out across the city during 2015 to 2016 if it is deemed a success by City Hall and is approved by the Japanese government, a statement on the municipal website says.

Motorbike drivers ignore a red light at an intersection on Norodom Boulevard on Wednesday in Phnom Penh. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Motorbike drivers ignore a red light at an intersection on Norodom Boulevard on Wednesday in Phnom Penh. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“This new technological system will better control traffic and improve traffic jams in Phnom Penh,” said City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche.

The project is just one of a number proposed under JICA’s transport master plan, which seeks to develop a well-managed urban transport system in Phnom Penh, said JICA spokesman Egami Mashahiko.

“We are planning to upgrade the whole traffic light system in Phnom Penh in number and technology,” he said, adding that the number of intersections with traffic lights will be increased from 69 to about 100.

Currently, traffic lights do not communicate, and they operate on a fixed-timing plan regardless of traffic conditions—even during peak hours, he added.

In addition, a control center in the department of public works and transport will be outfitted with CCTV and sensors monitoring the traffic volume in order to manage congestion by providing appropriate signal patterns.

“This is the first project where JICA aims to completely replace the whole traffic light system in a big city,” Mr. Mashahiko said, noting that similar initiatives—managed by Japanese companies—have been undertaken in other cities in the region including Manila and Chiang Mai, Thailand.

In February, JICA launched a successful one-month public bus trial, which is now under City Hall’s operation as the public company JICA handed over the service to pulled out of the project.

Ear Chariya, an independent road safety specialist, said developing a more effective traffic light system would definitely help ease the city’s growing congestion problem, which would in turn make for a smoother-running municipal bus service.

But he said the habit of some people ignoring traffic light signals means that the new system, in itself, would not reduce road traffic accidents.

“It is still a problem that traffic lights are ignored by the public, so users must show more respect for the traffic laws and traffic police need to monitor intersections and better enforce the law,” he said.

Phnom Penh traffic police chief Hev Hak on Wednesday said he was too preoccupied to talk.

“I am in a traffic jam,” he said.

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