Japan Pledges Bridge Funds

In two agreements signed Tuesday, Japan promised Cam­bodia about $124 million to fund renovations to National Route 1, which runs from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City, and to build a bridge across the Mekong River at Neak Leoung.

A feasibility study for the bridge is expected to begin soon and to be completed by 2006, said Direc­tor General of Public Works, Chhin Kong Hean, who signed the agreement with the Phnom Penh head of Japan In­ternational Cooperation Agen­cy, Juro Chika­rashi.

The bridge, 2 km long and almost 40 meters high, should be finished by 2009, Chhin Kong Hean said. The cost will not be known for sure until the feasibility study is completed, he said.

Japanese and Cambodian officials are predicting the project will cost about $100 million, based on the cost of previous bridge projects. But in a speech last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen said that the bridge would require about $118 million.

It has not yet been decided whether those construction costs will come to Cambodia as a grant or a loan, Juro Chikarashi said. The cost of the study is also undetermined, Chhin Kong Hean said.

A second agreement signed Tuesday, by Juro Chikara­shi and Council for Development of Cam­bodia Deputy Secretary-General Chhing Yanara, confirms $24 million in grant aid to refurbish the rest of Route 1, Chhin Kong Hean said. With completed feasibility studies, work is expected to begin soon, he said. Japanese officials have not said when they will open bidding for the project.

Since 1992 Japan has given Cambodia about $1 billion for infrastructure and development projects including roads, hospitals, schools and two other bridges, Keat Chhon said. Japan has also agreed to consider another project to build a bridge across the Tonle Bassac in Takh­mau, Kandal province, Chhin Kong Hean said.

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