Phnom Penh City Hall plans to expand a section of Sothearos Boulevard outside a main entrance to the new Aeon Mall to help ease traffic congestion when the four-floor shopping center officially opens on Monday, officials said Wednesday.
“We have a plan to expand the street by 4 meters wide,” said Sam Piseth, director of Phnom Penh’s municipal public works and transport department. “Three meters will be expanded from the eastern part of the road and the other 1 meter will be expanded from the western part.”
Mr. Piseth declined to provide further details or say when the project would begin, adding only that the road would also get a new traffic light “by 2015.”
The $205-million Aeon Mall will open to the public Monday with 190 shops. The mall will have two main entrances—one on the two-lane Sothearos Boulevard and the other on a small road that runs along the Tonle Bassac river.
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said the municipality is currently studying traffic on Sothearos Boulevard and that an expansion is not urgent.
“We are concerned very much by this traffic jam issue. We are looking into any possibility to help solve this problem. The road expansion is not really important because by how many meters could we really expand?” he said.
Mr. Dimanche said existing businesses along the strip would not allow for an expansion much greater than 2 meters and that the city is now focused on expanding the small road that runs along the Tonle Bassac side of the mall.
“There will be contribution from the owners of Sofitel Hotel and Aeon to build this road from the eastern part,” Mr. Dimanche said.
Charles-Henri Chevet, the general manager of Sofitel, which sits adjacent to Aeon Mall, said City Hall contacted the hotel last year about the possibility of widening Sothearos Boulevard.
“We were contacted by City Hall several times last year to enlarge Sothearos in anticipation of Aeon mall opening,” he said. “Unfortunately, nothing has happened since and we regret it. We have asked…the city several times. We believe it is necessary to enlarge Sothearos Boulevard.”
Aeon Mall managing director Shinobu Washizawa said he was aware of traffic problems and that Aeon has had been in discussions with City Hall about expanding Sothearos Boulevard.
“We are going to widen the road in front of the mall. We want to hurry up and extend,” Mr. Washizawa said.
Mr. Washizawa’s assistant, Pysey Sin, said Aeon would employ security guards to help vehicles wanting to enter the mall. “We notice the streets around our mall [are] very small, and we have a plan in place. We will use manpower to support and help our customers go in and out of the mall,” Mr. Sin said.
Horn Phallin, 32, who runs a shop selling refrigerators across from Aeon, said she was concerned about losing business if something is not done soon about increased traffic along the road.
“It was fine before, but the traffic is congested now, so people don’t want to drive through this area,” Ms. Phallin said.