Italian government approves plans to build world’s longest suspension bridge

By Mike Hayes19 March 2023

The Italian government has given approval for the construction of a suspension bridge, connecting the Italian mainland with the island of Sicily.

An early model of the Messina Bridge, illustrating the vast central span. Image: Reuters

The bridge, which has already controversially seen approval granted and rescinded, has now received approval by the government’s Council of Ministers.

If the bridge were to be constructed according to its current technical specifications, it would stretch to 3,666m, with a single span of 3,300m. This would make it the longest suspension bridge in the world, ahead of the recently-completed Canakkale Bridge in Tukey, which has a central span of 2,023m.

Italy’s infrastructure minister, Matteo Salvini, said in a statement that the Messina Bridge would increase tourism in the region, as well as boosting industry.

He added that the bridge would be constructed in an environmentally friendly way and would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport, with trains able to run between the mainland and Sicily for the first time.

The government said the design of the bridge will be fundamentally based on plans that were developed in 2011, but will take into account “new technical, safety and environmental standards”.

Covering the cost

Construction of the bridge is expected to take at least six years, with costs estimated at around €8.5 billion.

Salvini said the project’s initial funding would come from the ministry of infrastructure and transport and the ministry of finance, with costs ultimately covered by bridge tolls.

Opposition groups have voiced concerns about potential cost overruns, criminal involvement in the project, its potential environmental impact and the danger of earthquakes in the region.

From an engineering perspective, the construction challenge is great, given the deep water and fast currents between the two land masses.

More detailed plans for the Messina Bridge are expected within the coming weeks.

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