Italy to build world’s longest suspension bridge, design approved

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The design for the world’s longest suspension bridge, the Messina Strait Bridge, has now been officially approved, connecting the island of Sicily to the mainland. This new suspension bridge, accommodating both road and rail links is estimated to cost 4.5 billion euros ($4.96 billion). It aims to establish a connection, between Sicily and Calabria offering a needed economic boost to two of Italy’s less affluent regions while replacing the current ferry services.

The suspension bridge design is specifically tailored to withstand the earthquakes prevalent in the area. Notably this structure will set records with its towering support towers and longest central span ever seen in a suspension bridge. The broad span is necessary due to the water flow, in that channel.

A recent government decree, in Giorgia Melonis administration has reignited the possibility of the awaited engineering project moving forward. Transport Minister Matteo Salvini has resurrected a plan that was originally set in motion during Silvio Berlusconis time as minister.

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Back, in 2006 a consortium led by the Salini Impregilo, now known as WeBuild was granted the contract to construct the bridge. However when Berlusconis government fell that year the bridge project was abandoned under the Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who considered it both costly and environmentally risky.

“After witnessing the construction of various ‘Messina Style’ bridges, across the globe, Pietro Ciucci, the CEO of Stretto di Messina SpA (SdM) a state owned project sponsor believes that it is now the moment to embark on building one over the Strait of Messina.

The proposed bridge will feature three lanes for vehicles in each direction along with a lane designated for rail transport. Its deck is planned to accommodate a 1,970 ft navigation channel with a generous 215 ft of clearance above. Designed with a profile of withstanding winds reaching speeds of up to 180 mph and resilient enough to endure earthquakes measuring up, to 7.1 on the Richter scale.”

For nearly 2,000 years, the idea of constructing a bridge across the Messina Strait has tantalized the imagination. The Romans toyed with the concept, envisioning a floating pontoon bridge supported by interconnected barrels. However, this ambitious plan never came to fruition. Over the centuries, numerous other proposals emerged, only to be met with rejection. With each passing era, the pace of these suggestions has quickened, spurred on by advancements in construction technology.

Construction start on Messina Strait bridge (world’s longest suspension bridge)

“The construction of the bridge, across the Strait of Messina is set to commence promptly once the contract is finalized and updated ” Longo informed parliament. “It is estimated that the detailed design phase will span eight months with construction expected to take over six years.”

Public records, from the treasury department reveal that 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) have already been allocated for feasibility studies since 1965. Salvini often emphasizes that the cost of not constructing the bridge could outweigh the expenses associated with its construction.”

The Strait of Messina lies along a fault line where a powerful 7.1 magnitude earthquake occurred in 1908 claiming, over 100,000 lives and triggering tsunamis that caused damage to the regions on both the Calabrian and Sicilian sides of the strait. This event stands as the occurrence ever recorded in Europe.

The waters in this area are known for their turbulence. Strong currents often dislodge seaweed from the seabed with their direction changing every six hours as observed by NASA. These dynamic wave patterns are even visible from space.

As per WeBuilds proposal, which’s currently the sole plan being considered due to pending bids the bridge deck would be constructed to withstand wind speeds of up to 300 kilometers per hour. The structure could remain open for traffic when facing winds reaching up to 150 kilometers, per hour.

The Messina Strait bridge (world’s longest suspension bridge), will be 74 meters above sea level with a navigation channel width of 600 meters to accommodate vessels, including large cargo ships and towering cruise liners. Additionally, it is being engineered to withstand activity up, to a magnitude of 7.5.

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During the construction phase an estimated 2.9 billion euros would be injected into the economy providing employment for around 100,000 individuals and involving the collaboration of 300 suppliers. Longo mentioned in parliament that a significant portion of these job opportunities would be targeted towards residents, from Sicily and Calabria regions, where unemployment rates are notably high.

Salvini adamantly argues that the economic impact following the construction of the bridge would undoubtedly be substantial. He suggests that cargo ships originating from Asia could conveniently dock in Sicily, with the goods then seamlessly transported via high-speed trains to Europe. However, it’s worth noting that such high-speed rail networks on Sicily are currently non-existent.

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