The Bridge of Messina
In 1971 a decision was taken to construct a stable connection by bridge between Sicily and Calabria. In the course of the revision of the TEN-T guidelines in 2004 the concept of the bridge was taken into the TEN-T priority projects as part of PP1 connecting Berlin with Palermo. Construction work should have started in 2007 with completion scheduled for 2012. However, the huge cost involved and strong opposition from environmentalists resulted in the abandonment of the project by the Italian government in October 2006. Immediately after the 2008 elections, Silvio Berlusconi restarted the project. The official start of the construction work should have been on the 23rd December 2009, but it was postponed until 2012. After the retreat of Mr Berlusconi the project was shelved again. On the 1st of March 2013 the contract between the managing authority and the general contractor was cancelled.
The Strait of Messina marks one of the most geologically turbulent regions in Europe. For this reason it was impossible to make a fixed construction with pillars on the sea bed. The only feasible solution was a suspension bridge. The length of the bridge would be about 3.6 km - the longest suspension bridge in the world. It was planned to connect the road networks as well as the rail systems. The costs were calculated at about 4.6 bn euro with overall costs (construction and financing) of about 6 bn euro. The whole sum was to be financed by private companies and not by the State. How this could have been realised remains unclear.
The two most important issues that were at stake were the environmental impact of the project on the one hand and the enormous costs which would be difficult to finance on the other.
In terms of financing, what is criticised most is that the money would be invested into one huge project like a "cathedral in the desert", and the approaches to the bridge would remain in poor condition. Another important argument against the project was that the involvement of criminal organisations is very likely in such projects.
In June 2003 the Ministry approved the application for the project in terms of environmental impact based on a huge environmental impact assessment.
Organisations like Associazione Bianchi Bandinelli, Comitato per la Bellezza, Greenpeace, Italia Nostra, Legambiente, LAC, LAV, LIPU, Marevivo, VAS and WWF strongly criticised the impact assessment, and claimed that the assumptions for this study were wrong.
Firstly they claimed that the bridge would not serve the transport network of southern Italy or Sicily. Secondly, it would be impossible to find private investors for this project unless there were state guarantees for at least 80% of the overall costs. Furthermore, the project was not well elaborated in terms of geological and construction risks. Finally, the organisations claim that the environmental impact of the proposed project has been entirely underestimated in all its components: the wildlife, the landscape, the geological and hydrological impact, atmospheric pollution, and the pollution of soil and water.
As the contract between the managing authority and the general contractor has been cancelled, it is very unlikely, that the project will be restarted. However, nobody definitely knows whether it will be resumed, or when.
Video of the planned construction:
Video of the bridge: