Cambodian Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol said Monday that the construction of the Chinese-invested Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway has gone full steam despite the COVID-19 pandemic and is expected to be completed ahead of schedule.

Invested by China Road & Bridge Corporation (CRBC), the 2-billion-U.S. Dollar Expressway will connect the capital city of Phnom Penh and the deep-sea port province of Preah Sihanouk in the country’s southwestern part.

The construction of the expressway began in March 2019 and is expected to be completed in March 2023. It is believed that the firm will be able to finish the project by September 2022, Chanthol said, according to the live broadcast on the Ministry’s official Facebook page.

“So far, about 55 percent of the construction has been completed,” he told reporters during a visit to a stretch of the road in Kampong Speu province.

At a width of 24.5 meters with two lanes on either side, vehicles can travel at a speed of 100 km per hour, so it will take only two hours to travel between the two destinations, compared with five hours at present, he said.

The minister added that the road will play a very important role in helping boost Cambodia’s economic growth as it links the capital city to the largest seaport in the kingdom.

Chanthol said that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the work on the project continued to make headway steadily under a joint effort made by the Chinese and Cambodian workers.

He said the project has currently created over 3,000 jobs for Cambodians, and about 66 percent of them have been fully vaccinated with two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“This project is very beneficial to our Cambodian workers because it provides them with technical know-how on the construction of an expressway, and we hope that after the project, they will be able to use their knowledge to help build other expressways in Cambodia,” he said.

The expressway is one of the Cambodia-China Cooperation projects under the framework of the Belt & Road Initiative.

Nin Saphon, Chairwoman of the National Assembly’s Commission on Public Works, Industry, Mines, Energy, Commerce, and Land Management, praised the CRBC for constructing the road in full compliance with technical standards.

“The firm’s construction technique is very professional,” she said during the visit. “This expressway is another testament to the unbreakable ironclad friendship between Cambodia and China.”