The current design is for a suspension bridge with a length of 3,300 meters.
The Romans tried it for the first time 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 wooden planks to build a temporary bridge across the Strait of Messina. The elephants reached Rome, but history does not record whether they managed to cross the makeshift bridge.
More than two millennia later, the idea of a bridge across this particular strait may be closer than ever to realization, writes US technology magazine Wired. After decades of political and technical debate, the Italian government is expected to finally approve the construction of the longest suspension bridge in the world.
The idea of linking Sicily to what Sicilians often refer to as “the mainland” is both symbolic and practical, as in the country’s deep south 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 re-entered the public debate in 1950. Geological surveys were carried out and then, in 1969, the government launched an international competition for design, which however for various reasons ended in a dead end”.
It was not until the 1990s that a final design for a suspension bridge was agreed upon. It was also then that 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 had risen from €6.16bn to €8.5bn. But soon after he lost his 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 passed a decree in mid-March paving the way for the bridge’s construction. This time he was backed by far-right Matteo Salvini, deputy prime minister and leader of the Berlusconi-backed populist Northern League party, now 86, who wrote in an Instagram post on the day the decree was signed: “We are not going to stop this time.” However, Salvini stated that “it is less expensive to build the bridge than not to do 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 at 2,023 meters. With pylons 380 meters high, the Strait of Messina Bridge will be the highest in the world, surpassing the Millau Viaduct in France, which is 342 meters high. 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 unobstructed below.
Therefore, the train travel time between the island and the mainland, currently around two hours including the ferry ride, will be reduced to less than 10 minutes, bringing the nearly 5 million people who they live in Sicily in the rest of Italy.
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