An international consortium won a multibillion euro contract to build a bridge connecting Sicily to the mainland of Italy. The question is: Will it really happen? The idea of linking Sicily with the mainland has been discussed for centuries.
The new bridge, as proposed, will become the longest suspension bridge in the world. At 2.1 miles it will be nearly 3 times as long as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The two towers will make the bridge higher than the Eiffel Tower. Fun fact; if all of the cables used to support the bridge were put end to end they would circle the
earth five times.
An international consortium led by the Italian firm Impregilo has been awarded the contract worth just under $5 Billion (approximately 4 Billion euro). It is anticipated that the new bridge will have at least 6 lanes for cars and 4 lanes for trains. Approximately 6,000 cars an hour would be able to cross the bridge and 200 trains per day.
The project is scheduled to begin next year and be completed in 2012. There is much doubt among the Italians whether the bridge will actually be built. Some believe the bridge will help the economy in the southern part of Italy which does not enjoy the wealth of the industrial north. Others believe that the money would be better spent
directly on improving roads, the railway system, schools and hospitals.
Currently travelers take a ferry to get to Sicily which can take hours. Sicily is not linked to the high speed Italian trains as there are no rail bridges connecting Sicily to the mainland. Trains are loaded on and off ferries which can be a slow process. The process is made even slower by the frequent ferry strikes.
Environmentalists have raised fears that the bridge could be hazardous since it would be built in an active earthquake zone. Architects have said that the structure would be able to withstand an earthquake of more than 7.1 even if the epicenter were nearby. This is significant since the city of Messina on Sicily was essentially destroyed by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in 1908.
There are concerns that organized crime may reap the financial benefits of being awarded construction contracts used in completing the bridge.
Access to the bridge may be limited due to poor infrastructure on both sides. A highway between Messina and Palermo was started 30 years ago and has still not been completed.
The bridge would make the cities of Sicily: Palermo, Siracusa and Messina along with the active volcano Mt. Etna more accessible to tourists.