Italy's president Silvio Berlusconi has revived plans to construct a suspension bridge linking the island of Sicily to the Italian mainland, pledging € 1.3 billion towards its projected cost of € 6.1 billion.
The Messina Bridge will have a central span of 3,3 km, making it the longest in the world.
President Berlusconi's 2001-2006 government originally backed the bridge, which was heavily criticized by the Italian media as a vanity project before it was scrapped by the succeeding short-lived centre-left government.
The bridge is part of a € 17.8 billion public works programme announced last Friday (6 March) designed to create new jobs and boost Italy's economy. Under the programme € 5 billion has been earmarked for infrastructure projects alongside a new strategic fund worth € 9 billion.
The € 5 billion allocated to infrastructure projects is in addition to € 16.6 billion already earmarked for infrastructure spending announced in November 2008. Besides the bridge this included funds to construct new urban rail networks, expand the highway network, build new prisons and schools, and a flood barrier system in Venice.
However, local media reports say many of the funds in the investment plan were in the government's previous budgets or had already been earmarked for Italy by the European Union (EU).
When the bridge was last mooted a consortium of Denmark's COWI, Italy's Impregilo, Condotte, Aci Consorzio Stabile, Cooperativa Muratori & Cementisti (CMC), and Impresa Grassetto, alongside Spain's Sacyr Vallehermoso, and Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries (IHI) from Japan were awarded the design, build operate, transfer (DBOT) contract, which was then valued at € 3,9 billion.
Construction of the road and rail bridge, which will link the Calabria region and the Sicilian city of Messina, is expected to start later this year.