The Italian government plans to build a bridge connecting the Italian mainland to the island of Sicily. The bridge, with a length of about 3.2 kilometers, would become one of the longest cable bridges in the world, reports the Italian news agency Ansa.
The government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni approved a decree on Thursday evening, which provides for “urgent measures for the construction of a stable connection between Sicily and Calabria”. Parliament now has two months to convert that decision into law.
Ferry or plane
Currently, Sicily can only be reached by ferry or plane. The conservative government of Meloni considers the billion-dollar project around the bridge important for the economy of Sicily and wants to involve the island more closely with the rest of Italy. Sicily is the poorest region of the republic and has a long history of distaste for central governments in Rome.
In the past, several Italian governments have already discussed the possibility of building a bridge across the Strait of Messina, the strait between the southern Italian region of Calabria and Sicily. But nothing ever came of those plans in practice. Opponents considered the project unnecessary and also risky, due to the earthquake risk in the region.
Even now, the plans are met with great resistance. In reactions, the bridge is dismissed as a waste of money. Critics fear that it is not technically and/or financially responsible and that the money, possibly 10 billion euros, could be better spent on public transport, for example. In addition to the extreme financial picture, environmental organizations also point to the “extremely high ecological costs”.
However, Infrastructure Minister Matteo Salvini, of the right-wing populist party Lega, speaks of a “historic day, not only for Calabria and Sicily, but for all of Italy.” After countless discussions, Sicily would finally be connected to the Italian mainland and Europe, it sounds. Salvini envisions the “most beautiful, greenest and safest single span bridge in the world”.
The bridge must be concretely built over the narrowest stretch of sea between the mainland and Sicily, between the municipalities of Villa San Giovanni and Torre Faro. Currently, the shortest ferry connection is approximately 25 minutes between Vila San Giovanni and Messina.
The government is examining the technical possibilities based on a plan that failed eleven years ago, and wants to start construction above the Strait of Messina by mid-2024 at the latest. The cable-stayed bridge – a type of bridge with one or more pillars with a piece of bridge deck suspended from each pillar by means of cables – must be more than 3 kilometers long. It should immediately become the longest bridge of this type in the world, according to the Italian authorities.
The previous project was stranded when then Prime Minister Mario Monti found it too expensive and had to close down the company that had been set up for the construction due to budget cuts. The current government wants to work with the companies that were pushed aside at the time.
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