Plans Released for Two New Koh Pich Bridges

Phnom Penh municipality has re­leased designs for two new brid­ges crossing to Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich island, nearly a month after a stampede on a Koh Pich bridge killed more than 350 people.

The two bridges would be completed in late 2011 and would be located just north of Diamond Bridge, connecting the two streets that run along Hun Sen Park in front of NagaWorld Ca­sino, according to the municipality’s website.

The Nov 22 stampede killed 353 people after thousands pack­ed onto Diamond Bridge while celebrating the Water Festival.

“Before it happened for the people that were on the bridge, we already informed City Hall that we would build one more bridge, and then after the accident we decided to build two more bridges,” said Touch Sam­nang, the Koh Pich project manager for the Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation.

Construction will begin in Jan­uary. Unlike Diamond Bridge, the new structures will not be sus­­pension bridges, and they will be designed so they do not vi­brate as Diamond Bridge did, he said. Authorities and OCIC officials have previously said vibrations on the bridge caused a panic among victims fearful of a collapse.

Though the municipality’s website reveals two possible designs, both are significantly less ornate than Diamond Bridge, which is topped by scepter-like staffs and fake gemstones, or the nearby Swan Bridge, which is topped by a statue that resembles a bird’s head.

A third bridge to be called the Dragon Bridge is already under construction at the southern tip of the island.

Mr Samnang declined to discuss the reason for the difference in design.

The 12-meter-wide bridges would each contain a single lane for traffic and two 4-meter footpaths.

Tang Sochet Vitou, one of the founding members of the Cam­bodian Society of Architects, said he expected the bridges to alleviate the potential pedestrian bottleneck, but warned that authorities must study road access to the 80-hectare island to ensure traffic problems don’t persist.

“To really solve the problem for the long term, the government should look at the bigger picture, not just adding some bridges,” he said.

“Definitely they need a lot more roads to get out of the island to avoid the traffic problems.”

He said that currently the main access to the island is through Hun Sen Park and near the Rus­sian Embassy, but he added that a third road would help alleviate what has already become a traffic problem.

Sam Piseth, the deputy director of the municipal urbanization division, who gave a presentation on the bridges to the municipality, declined to comment.

Mr Samnang said that a third access road is being widened south of the island near the Sofitel Hotel where a third bridge is being constructed.

“We have enough access roads to the island, but it’s just a work in progress.”

Bun Seang, the principal at Bun Seang Architects and As­sociates, cast doubt on what differences the new bridges could make in preventing the stampede. He said the 7-meter-wide Diamond Bridge would have been sufficient for 1 million people, but that crowd control was the issue.

“The important thing is to control the crowd, whether they have seven bridges or not,” he said.

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