The current design is that of a suspension bridge with a length of 3,300 meters.
The Romans first tried it in 250 BC. to transport 100 elephants captured in battle from Palermo, on the island of Sicily, to Rome. According to the Greek historian Strabo, they used empty barrels and planks of wood to build a temporary bridge over the Strait of Messina. The elephants reached Rome, but history does not indicate whether they crossed the makeshift bridge.
More than two millennia later, the idea of a bridge over this particular strait may be closer to realization than ever, writes the American technology magazine Wired. After decades of political and technical debates, the Italian government should finally approve the construction of the longest suspension bridge in the world.
The idea of connecting Sicily to what Sicilians often call “the mainland” is both symbolic and practical, as in the deep south of the country, high rates of unemployment and poverty contrast with the prosperity of the north.
“Since the unification of Italy in 1861, the bridge has been hailed as the savior of the rural South and returned to public debate in 1950. Geological surveys were carried out and then in 1969 the government launched an international competition to design, which however for various reasons it has reached an impasse”.
It was not until the 1990s that a definitive design for a suspension bridge was agreed upon. This is also when the project became a political issue, after Silvio Berlusconi made the bridge a key campaign promise.
Berlusconi was re-elected Prime Minister in 2008 and revived the project, which was approved again three years later – although the price was reduced from 6.16 billion euros to 8.5 billion euros. But soon after, he lost the majority and resigned. His successor, Mario Modi, last canceled the project in 2013.
Now the controversial project has been “resurrected”, as the current Meloni government approved a decree in mid-March paving the way for the construction of the bridge. This time he was backed by far-right Matteo Salvini, deputy prime minister and leader of the populist Northern League party – backed by Berlusconi, now 86, who wrote in an Instagram post the day of the signing of the decree: “We will not stop this time.” However, Salvini said that “it is cheaper to build the bridge than not to build it”.
The current design is for a suspension bridge with a length of 3,300 meters, which is 60% longer than the Canakkale Bridge in Turkey, currently the longest suspension bridge in the world, which spans 2,023 meters. With pylons 380 meters high, the Strait of Messina Bridge will be the tallest in the world, surpassing the Millau Viaduct in France, which rises to 342 meters. It will be able to carry 6,000 vehicles per hour and 200 trains per day, and since it will be 65 meters above the water, navigation will be unhindered below.
Thus, the train journey time between the island and the mainland – currently around two hours, including the ferry trip – will be reduced to less than 10 minutes, bringing the nearly 5 million people who live in Sicily much closer to the rest of Italy.
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