Strait of Messina Bridge

The Strait of Messina Bridge (Italian: Ponte sullo stretto di Messina) is a planned 3.6-kilometre suspension bridge across the Strait of Messina, connecting Torre Faro in Sicily with Villa San Giovanni in the Italian Peninsula.[1]

Proposed Strait of Messina Bridge

Ponte sullo stretto di Messina
An artist's impression of the planned bridge from the Calabrian coast.
Coordinates38°14′51″N 15°38′21″E / 38.24750°N 15.63917°E / 38.24750; 15.63917
CarriesSix lanes and two emergency lanes. Two rails and two railway sidewalks.
CrossesStrait of Messina
LocaleMessina and Villa San Giovanni
DesignSuspension bridge
Total length3,666 metres (12,028 ft)
Height382.6 metres (1,255 ft) (pylons)
Longest span3,300 metres (10,800 ft)
Clearance below76 metres (249 ft)
DesignerStretto di Messina
Construction startSummer 2024
Construction endProjected 2032

The bridge has been controversial due to the impact of earthquakes, strong currents in the strait, concerns of disruption of bird migration routes, and the infiltration of mafia groups Cosa Nostra and 'Ndrangheta in area construction projects.[2]

While a bridge across the Strait of Messina had been proposed since ancient times, the first detailed plan was made in the 1990s for a suspension bridge. The project was cancelled in 2006 under Prime Minister Romano Prodi.[3] On 6 March 2009, as part of a massive new public works programme, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government announced that construction of the Messina Bridge would indeed go ahead, pledging €1.3 billion as a contribution to the bridge's total cost, estimated at €6.1 billion.[4] The project was cancelled again on 26 February 2013, by Prime Minister Mario Monti's government due to budget constraints.[5] A decade later, the project was revived again with a decree by Giorgia Meloni's government on 16 March 2023,[6] which received presidential approval on 31 March 2023.[7][8]

If fully approved and built, the bridge will be the longest suspension bridge in the world, surpassing the Zhangjiagang-Jingjiang-Rugao Yangtze River Bridge in China, the world's longest suspension bridge at the time of the completion of the Strait of Messina Bridge, as its main span would be 60% longer than that of the Zhangjiagang-Jingjiang-Rugao Yangtze River Bridge. The bridge would be part of the Berlin–Palermo railway axis (Line 1) of the Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T).

Geography edit

A 2002 NASA photo of the Strait of Messina. The bridge would connect north Messina with Villa San Giovanni

The Strait of Messina is a funnel-shaped arm of sea that connects the Ionian Sea in the south to the Tyrrhenian Sea to the north. The width of the strait varies from a maximum of approximately 16 km (9.9 miles) (between Capo d'Alì in Sicily and Punta Pellaro in Calabria) to a minimum of approximately 3 km (1.9 miles) between Capo Peloro in Sicily and Torre Cavallo in Calabria.[9] A similar distance separates Pezzo and Ganzirri; at that point, the strait is only 72 m (236 ft) deep, while in other places it can reach 200 m (660 ft) deep. It is also characterised by strong currents and the region has strong seismicity.

History edit

The idea of a bridge crossing the strait is an old one. The Romans considered building a bridge joining Calabria and Sicily made of boats and barrels. Pliny the Elder, philosopher and Roman military leader born in 23 AD wrote of a plan to bridge the Strait with a series of connecting boats. The idea was abandoned as it was clear that more traffic ploughed the Strait in a north-south than east-west direction, so any structure on water could not be permanent.[10]

Charlemagne considered joining the two sides with a series of bridges. This idea was revived by the Norman adventurer Robert Guiscard in the 11th century and by Roger II of Sicily in the 12th century.[citation needed] In 1876, Giuseppe Zanardelli was convinced that the strait could be linked by either a bridge or a tunnel. In 1866, public works minister Stefano Jacini gave Alfredo Cottrau, an internationally recognised engineer, the task of drawing up plans for a bridge between Calabria and Sicily. Later, in 1870, Navone proposed building a tunnel based on Napoleon's idea of a tunnel under the English Channel. This tunnel was to start at Contesse and was to pass below Messina and Ganzirri at a depth of 150 m (490 ft), crossing the Strait to Punta Pezzo and resurfacing at Torre Cavallo.

A geologic study of the area of the Strait of Messina was published in 1909 (historical Arch. Sicilian year XXXIV f.1,2) and in 1921, a study of an undersea tunnel was released to the Geographic Conference of Florence. A group of railway civil engineers studied the possibility of a suspension bridge but nothing came of it. The idea was revived in 1953 by master bridge builder David B. Steinman with a plan to build a bridge that crossed the Strait using two 220 m (720 ft) towers sunk in 120 m (390 ft) deep waters. The proposed 1,524 m (5,000 ft) span would have represented a world record, eclipsing the then-longest 1,275 m (4,183 ft) centre span of the Golden Gate Bridge and beating the 2,256 m (7,402 ft) Mackinac Straits Bridge (then in planning) with a total length of 2,988 m (9,803 ft). The proposed structure was to clear the sea by 50 m (160 ft) for navigation, and have two decks – a lower deck carrying two rail lines, and 7 m (23 ft) above, a road deck 30 m (98 ft) wide. The main cables were designed with a diameter of 1 m (39 in). The construction of the bridge would have required 12,000 workers and cost hundreds of billions of lire.

Early planning stages edit

  • In the 1960s, a wide variety of proposals were advanced, including everything from submerged tubes to floating struts, pontoons and a revolving central section of the bridge. None turned out to be realistic.
  • In 1969, an international design competition was arranged.
  • In the 1970s, feasibility studies were undertaken by the State Railways leading to the creation of a private company with responsibility for planning the crossing of the Strait.
  • In the 1980s, the Messina Strait Company (Stretto di Messina S.p.A.) was set up with support from the State Railways, the regions and IRI. It concluded that it would be feasible to build a suspension bridge.
  • Detailed plans followed in the 1990s with final approval from the High Council of Public Works (Consiglio Superiore dei Lavori Pubblici).

Development of detailed plans edit

Cross-sectional diagram of the Strait of Messina Bridge

The 2006 plan called for a single-span suspension bridge with a central span of 3,300 m (10,800 ft). This would have made the span more than 60% longer than the 1915 Çanakkale Bridge in Turkey – the longest suspension bridge in the world at 2,023 m (6,637 ft).[11]

Plans called for four traffic lanes (two driving lanes and one emergency lane in each direction), two railway tracks and two pedestrian lanes. In order to provide a minimum vertical clearance for navigation of 65 m (213 ft), the height of the two towers was to be 382.6 m (1,255 ft). This would have been taller than the Millau Viaduct in France (currently the tallest bridge in the world at 341 m (1,119 ft)). The bridge's suspension system would have relied on two pairs of steel cables, each with a diameter of 1.24 m (49 in) and a total length, between the anchor blocks, of 5,300 m (17,400 ft).[12]

The design included 20.3 km (12.6 miles) of road links and 19.8 km (12.3 miles) of railway links to the bridge. On the mainland, the bridge was to connect to the new stretch of the Salerno-Reggio Calabria motorway (A3) and to the planned Naples-Reggio Calabria High-Speed railway line; on the Sicilian side, to the Messina-Catania (A18) and Messina-Palermo (A20) motorways as well as the new Messina railway station (to be built by Rete Ferroviaria Italiana).[13]

The bridge was planned to connect Reggio Calabria to Messina, the two cities that face each other on either side of the strait, in order to form a single city. This ambitious urban project was called Area Metropolitana integrata dello Stretto (Integrated Metropolitan Area of the Strait) or simply Città dello Stretto (City of the Strait). Among the controversies surrounding the building of the bridge was strong opposition to the formation of the new city by various Sicilian nationalist groups.[13]

Abandonment and revival edit

On 12 October 2006, the Italian Parliament voted 272 to 232 in favour of abandoning the plan due to the bridge's "doubtful usefulness and viability", as well as the inability of the already burdened Italian treasury to bear its share of the cost. Additionally, transport minister Alessandro Bianchi pointed out that the road and rail links leading to the location of the proposed bridge are not capable of supporting enough traffic to make the bridge profitable. Other reasons for abandoning the plan were earthquake risk and fears that the bridge would enrich the networks of Organized crime in Italy such as Cosa Nostra and 'Ndrangheta.[3][14]

On 15 April 2008, Silvio Berlusconi was re-elected prime minister of Italy and vowed to restart the project to build the bridge. The following month, Altero Matteoli, Italy's minister of infrastructure and transport confirmed the government's intent to restart work on the bridge in a letter to Pietro Ciucci, the president of Società Stretto di Messina.[15]

On 6 March 2009, as part of a massive new public works programme, Silvio Berlusconi's government announced that plans to construct the Messina bridge had been revived, pledging €1.3 billion for the bridge as a contribution to its estimated cost of €6.1 billion. Some 3,300 m (10,800 ft) long and 60 m (200 ft) wide, the bridge would be supported by two 382 m (1,253 ft) pillars, each higher than the Empire State Building in New York. There would be two motorway lanes and one emergency lane in each direction, catering for 6,000 vehicles per hour, a double track railway for up to 200 trains a day, and two independent lanes for service traffic and pedestrians. Berlusconi claimed that work will be completed by 2016. Until 2006, when the project was halted, the work had been assigned to a consortium of Impregilo (now called Webuild), Condotte d'Acqua, Cooperativa Muratori & Cementisti (CMC), and Consorzio Stabile A.C.I., alongside Spain's Sacyr, and Japan's IHI Corporation.[11]

On 23 December 2009, preparatory work started with the diversion of the Tyrrhenian railway at Cannitello on the Italian mainland side of the strait.[16]

In February 2013, the project was shut down by Mario Monti, the new Italian Premier, by the government for lack of funds.[5]

In September 2016, the project was reconsidered by the government of Matteo Renzi.[17]

On 6 October 2019, the Tribunale amministrativo regionale (TAR) postpones to 8 July 2020 the hearing for the decision on the dispute undertaken by Salini Impregilo against the Italian Government for the payment of the huge penalties for the failure to execute the Bridge as decided by the Monti Cabinet in 2013.[18]

On 3 June 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Premier Giuseppe Conte returned to talk about Messina Bridge, declaring that the Government of Italy would return to evaluate the resumption of work without prejudice.[19][20]

On 22 April 2021, the CEO of Webuild, Pietro Salini, in Catania in a joint press conference with the President of the Sicilian Region Nello Musumeci, announced that he was ready to build the Strait of Messina Bridge, starting immediately with the works and on the basis of the executive project and construction site approved definitively in 2013. He declared that he already had the 4 billion euro coverage necessary for the construction of the Work and that he could obtain the other two necessary for the infrastructures connected to it from private financing.[21][22]

On 16 March 2023, the Government of Italy, chaired by Giorgia Meloni and with Matteo Salvini at the Ministry of Infrastructure, approved a decree law to proceed with the construction of the Messina Bridge by remodeling the current project.[6]

On 19 March 2023, WeBuild's Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.), Pietro Salini, said works on the bridge should begin by Summer 2024 with the opening of the project scheduled for 2032.[23]

On 31 March 2023, the President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella approves the Decreto Ponte (Bridge Decree) which is thus published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale (Official Gazette).[7]

Contracting parties edit

A construction consortium led by Impregilo (now called Webuild) was chosen in 2005, with actual construction set to begin in the second half of 2006. The bridge was designed by Danish architects at Dissing+Weitling in close collaboration with the Danish engineering firm COWI.[24]

On 27 March 2006, Impregilo and Stretto di Messina announced that they had signed a contract assigning final project planning to a General Contractor. Impregilo S.p.A., the lead partner had a 45% share. Other participants were Spain’s Sacyr (18.70%), the Italian companies Società Italiana per Condotte D’Acqua S.p.A. (15%) and Cooperativa Muratori & Cementisti-C.M.C. of Ravenna (13%), Japan’s IHI Corporation (6.30%), and Consorzio Stabile A.C.I. S.c.p.a (2%). The General Contractor would also be assisted by the Danish and Canadian companies COWI A/S, Sund & Baelt A/S and Buckland & Taylor Ltd., who would handle project engineering. Completion was projected to take six years, at a projected cost of €3.9 billion. The first task of the General Contractor was to draw up the final project.[25]

The Akashi Kaikyō Bridge, built in 1998 in Japan by IHI Corporation, one of the companies in charge of building the Messina Bridge.
The Øresund Bridge, built in 1999 by COWI A/S, one of the companies to be involved in building the Messina Bridge.
Contract of the Messina Bridge
Function Companies Role
General contractor
  Eurolink (now Webuild)[26]
  Webuild (Impregilo till 2012) Group leader (45%)
  IHI Infrastructure Systems Co., Ltd. Mandator
  COWI A/S Mandator
  Sacyr Mandator
  Società Italiana per Condotte d'Acqua Mandator
  Cooperativa Muratori & Cementisti Mandator
  Argo Costruzioni Infrastrutture Mandator
  Dissing+Weitling Mandator
  Sund & Bælt A/S Mandator
  Buckland & Taylor Mandator
Project management   Parsons Corporation
Environmental monitoring   Fenice Group leader
  Agriconsulting Mandator
  Eurisko NOP World Mandator
  Nautilus Società Cooperativa Mandator
  Theolab Mandator
Insurance broker   Marsh

Criticisms edit

The bridge has been controversial due to the impact of earthquakes, strong currents in the strait, concerns of disruption of bird migration routes, and the infiltration of mafia groups Cosa Nostra and 'Ndrangheta in area construction projects.[2]

Supporters see the bridge as a huge job-creation scheme and a boost for tourism. However, opponents question the priority of the bridge, claiming that if the government concentrated instead on making Sicily's roads more efficient, drivers would be able to reach the coast more quickly at a fraction of the bridge's cost. Others believe that the bridge is quite unnecessary, since the local economy is already providing for the conversion of the local former NATO Comiso Airport into a commercial terminal to export vegetables to Northern Europe. Alternatively, a much cheaper revamping of the current structures is claimed to be sufficient (for instance, the ferry lines on the Calabria side are now accessible by trucks only by driving through very narrow streets, which are a tight bottleneck for transport). Another argument against the bridge is the poor state of the transport infrastructure in Sicily, particularly the railroad and the A20 autostrada linking Messina to Palermo, and the poor state of the A2 autostrada on the mainland linking Reggio Calabria to Naples.

The greatest structural design problem of the bridge is the aerodynamic stability of its deck under wind and seismic activity.[27]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Sylvers, Eric (26 July 2023). "Italy Says it Will Build the Longest Suspension Bridge in the World. Don't Hold Your Breath". The Wall Street Journal.
  2. ^ a b Nadeau, Barbie Latza (30 April 2023). "Italy wants to build the world's longest suspension bridge. The Mafia and geography might make that difficult". CNN.
  3. ^ a b "Italy drops Sicily bridge plans". BBC News. 12 October 2006.
  4. ^ "Italy revives Sicily bridge plan". BBC News. 6 March 2009.
  5. ^ a b Masoni, Danilo (26 February 2013). "Sicily bridge project sinks in Italy budget mire". Reuters.
  6. ^ a b "Cabinet approves Messina Bridge decree - 'Historic day for Italy' says Infrastructure Minister Salvini". Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata. 17 March 2023.
  7. ^ a b "Il Ponte sullo Stretto è legge: Mattarella firma, il decreto è in Gazzetta Ufficiale". (in Italian). 31 March 2023.
  8. ^ "Déjà Vu? Italy Plans To Build World's Longest Suspension Bridge To Sicily". IFLScience. 16 February 2024. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  9. ^ "Sicily (island, Italy) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Encyclopædia Britannica. 17 February 2009. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
  10. ^ "When Planning a Bridge is No Small Decision". 3 June 2021.
  11. ^ a b Sicily to get longest bridge from TimesOnline. Retrieved 8 March 2009.
  12. ^ Italy revives Messina Straits bridge from Construction Europe. Retrieved 9 March 2009.
  13. ^ a b "Ponte sullo Stretto: un maxi-documento contro le "bugie pubblicate dalla stampa locale"" (in Italian). 17 December 2013. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  14. ^ Hooper, John (12 October 2006). "Italian MPs kill plan to bridge Sicily and mainland". The Guardian.
  15. ^ "Italian minister commits to Messina Bridge". Bridge Design and Engineering. 27 May 2008. Archived from the original on 6 July 2009.
  16. ^ "Ponte stretto: al via i lavori (Straits bridge: Work begins)" (in Italian). ItaliaOnLine. 23 December 2009. Archived from the original on 18 May 2016.
  17. ^ Samuels, Gabriel (27 September 2016). "Italian PM Matteo Renzi revives plan for bridge from mainland Italy to Sicily". The Independent.
  18. ^ "Ponte Messina: slitta a luglio 2020 l'udienza del Tar su contenzioso con Salini Impregilo" (in Italian). 7 October 2019.
  19. ^ "Use crisis to redesign country - Conte". Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata. 3 June 2010. As for a revived proposal to build a bridge across the Messina Strait to Sicily, Conte said "I will evaluate everything without prejudice".
  20. ^ "Conte: "On EU funds, comparison with everyone, it is not a treasure of the government"". 4 June 2010. And the Messina bridge? "I will also evaluate without prejudice the bridge over the Strait." And the Mes? "When we have the regulations I will study them and with Parliament we will decide."
  21. ^ ""Il Ponte sullo Stretto? Ce lo facciamo da soli": il patto di Musumeci con Salini" (in Italian). 22 April 2021.
  22. ^ "Ponte Stretto: Salini, è cantierabile, siamo pronti a farlo". Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (in Italian). 22 April 2021.
  23. ^ "Pietro Salini at "Quarta Repubblica": We are ready to build the Strait of Messina Bridge | WeBuild Group". webuildgroup. Retrieved 7 April 2024.
  24. ^ "Sicily bridge constructor named". BBC News. 12 October 2005.
  25. ^ Straits Bridge: Impregilo and Stretto di Messina close contract Archived 18 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 10 March 2009.
  26. ^ "Salini Impregilo cambia nome: da oggi nasce Webuild - la Repubblica". 4 May 2020. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  27. ^ "Messina Straits Bridge". Structurae. The greatest problem in designing the bridge is the aerodynamic stability of the deck under wind as well as seismic activity.

Further reading edit

External links edit