Il ponte di Messina
by G. Luka
To bridge or not to bridge, that is the question.
Two aspects of modern Italy.
Sicily (Sicilia in Italian) is an autonomous region of Italy and the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, with five million inhabitants. The Italian peninsula and Sicily are divided by 3,3 km of water – The Strait of Messina – which people have to cross by boat or ferries. An international consortium led by the Italian firm Impregilo has been awarded the multibillion euro contract to build a bridge connecting Sicily to the mainland of Italy. The idea of linking Sicily with the Mainland has been discussed for centuries. This was also the ambitious programme to which Berlusconi, prime minister from June 2001 to May 2006 of the centre-right administration, dedicated his government, and which aimed to modernise Italy’s infrastructure. Today’s question is: Will it really happen?
Leda Petrone, in the “Apc-Ponte Messina – Firmato contratto tra società e Impregilo” (Apc-The Bridge of Messina / The contract between some companies and Impregilo has been signed) reports that the contract between the City of Stretto di Messina and Impregilo (Impregilo SpA is mainly an Italian Group whose principal activity is infrastructure), for the construction project of the Bridge of Messina which will link Sicily and the Mainland, has been signed.
The total cost of the construction works is to reach approximately € 3.9 billion. According to private advisors, the Bridge will have a positive impact in social, economic and environmental terms. Generally, according to Petrone, the direct, indirect and induced economic impact of the construction phase is estimated to be very important.
Alberto Lina, managing director of Impregilo, states that the Bridge will help reduce the infrastructural deficit in Southern Italy (Sicily and Calabria). The reduction of traffic congestion will lead to the improvement of the quality of life, an improvement of the urban image and its resulting benefit in terms of commerce and tourism benefits. The Bridge itself will become a tourist attraction.
Considering the socio-economic value of the Project, concludes Alberto Lina, one should not disregard the importance of scientific research, in this case relating to Italian techniques and technologies, reaffirming the Italian competence in building great infrastructures.
The Strait of Messina Bridge Preliminary Project is a revised version of the project first proposed in 1992, updated to include the recent findings and resolutions of the Technical and Scientific Committee set up by the Italian Ministry of Infrastructure. In last April’s general election, Prodi’s centre-left coalition came to power. Concluding that action was needed, the government undertook a quick review of the Bridge and announced that it would not go ahead. Prodi also felt a need to make clear to environmentalists and to the many local authorities that he would not back down on an issue where he judged the national interest to be at stake.
According to an article by Gaetano Prisciantelli, “Ponte sullo Stretto – dieci volte No.” (The Bridge over the Straight – ten times No.), the Greens think that the bridge is of no use to the Italians. The senator Anna Donati, leader of the parliamentary group of the Greens and the president of the Greens A. Pecoraro Scanio with the prof. Giancarlo Presicci reported a critical synthesis in opposition to the Ministry for the Environment and Territory and against the minister Matteoli.
They give ten reasons of why the construction of the bridge must be stopped. An innovative project such as the Strait of Messina Bridge, requires some extremely advanced engineering solutions. The foundations, for example, must support a system of cables that weighs hundreds of thousands of tons. Careful study of the foundation-terrain interaction therefore becomes fundamental and that, in turn, requires a geophysical analysis of the terrain. Then there are the structural aspects of the work: for example, the action of wind on a span of 3,300 meters is a formidable problem. The wind perpendicular to the direction of the bridge itself can cause instability problems. They believe that the money would be better spent directly on improving roads and the railway system in Sicily and Calabria.
Environmentalists have raised fears that the bridge could be hazardous since it would be built in an active earthquake zone. This is significant since the city of Messina on Sicily was seriously damaged by the earthquakes in 1894 and 1908. Another reason is that the organized crime may reap the funds of being awarded construction contracts.
In addition, the Greens think that the project contain clamorous mistakes. The funding question of the project is unresolved and will have a negative effect on the State budget. Ultimately, they asked the Minister for the Environment and Territory Matteoli to stop the procedure of the environmental impact immediately.
There is much doubt among the Italians whether the bridge will actually be built and the idea of linking Sicily with the Mainland, discussed for centuries, is “to be continued”.
Petrone, Leda. “Grandi infrastrutture” Apc-Ponte Messina, firmato contratto tra società e Impregilo. < http://www.clubgrandiinfrastrutture.it > – 12/04/2007
Prisciantelli, Gaetano. “Federazione dei Verdi”, Ponte sullo Stretto – dieci volte No.
< http://www.verdi.it/document/pontemessina/1.htm > 12/04/2007
Barber, Tony. "A tale of two Italys"