This is the pharaonic bridge over the Strait of Messina, which will connect Sicily with Italy and in which the Spanish company Sacyr participates

The dream of uniting the island of Sicily with the Italian peninsula has been in the collective imagination since ancient times, although it resists becoming a reality due to its complexity and cost.

There was only one, historians say, Created by the Romans in 251 BC, at the height of the Punic Wars. According to Strabo, as early as 300 BC, trade flows from Sicily, then in the hands of Carthage, to Rome were notable, especially citrus fruits.

The chronicles relate that in that year 251 BC, the consul Lucius Caecilius Metellus, after having finished off the Carthaginians in the battle of Palermo, built a boat bridge between Messina and Reggio. It was actually a platform of ships tied together, covered with boards and earth to allow passage.not only of merchandise, but of the elephants captured from the Carthaginians.

However, many centuries would pass until this project was relaunched, specifically at the end of the 20th century. Work was expected to begin in 2006 and the bridge to be completed in 2011. However, in February 2013 the project was abandoned. At the end of September 2016, the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced before a group of businessmen in Milan that the Government would resume the project, although the Government of Giorgia Miloni would have to arrive to relaunch the work with a legislative decree of 2023. For this, They allocated several items with a total estimated cost of 10,000 million euros. According to WeBuild, the company that leads the Eurolink consortium awarded the project, the cost will be around 11,000 divided into 4,500 for the bridge itself, 5,300 for the functional connection works to the bridge and another 1,100 for other connections and impact mitigation works. environmental.

Bridge recreation

The bridge will connect Sicily and Calabria at the closest point of the two banks, with a structure that will form the center of an integrated infrastructure system. Thanks to the aerodynamic characteristics of its design, the bridge is Designed to withstand wind speeds of 216 km/h, taking into account that the maximum wind speed recorded in the area in more than 20 years of monitoring has been 150 km/h. Furthermore, studies carried out in the wind tunnel have made it possible to raise the comfort and stability of the crossing to optimal levels, allowing traffic to flow smoothly even in the presence of strong winds. From a seismic point of view, according to the construction consortium, it would be able to withstand an earthquake of magnitude Mw=7.1 without suffering damage. (comparable to the earthquake that shook Messina in 1908).

Plan of the strait bridge and road and railway accesses
Plan of the strait bridge and road and railway accesses

Railway feasibility involves the crossing at speed and in any position of two 750-meter heavy trains. The static analysis was calculated with the presence of four 750 meter trains, two trains on each track.

And, as with so many large global infrastructure projects, there are also Spanish construction companies involved in this one. In this case, it is Sacyr, which is part of the consortium that was awarded the contract for the execution of the infrastructure back in 2005, headed by the Italian Webuild, formerly Salini Impregilo.

Through the aforementioned decree, The transalpine Government reactivates an already existing company, Stretto di Messina (Strait of Messina), in charge of promoting and directing the project of the bridge and which will now have the majority participation of the Ministry of Economy and Transport, together with the regions of Sicily and Calabria. In addition, the decree also rehabilitates the previous contract of the Stretto di Messina company with the construction consortium Eurolink, led by the Italian Webuild with 45% and which has the participation of Sacyr Engineeringe Infraestructuras, which is 18.7%.

Although the relaunch of the project is still in a very initial phase, it has the Government's firm decision to carry it out.

The bridge in figures:

  • Total length between expansion joints: 3,666 m
  • 3 lanes in each direction (fast, normal, emergency)
  • 2 railway tracks
  • 2 service lanes
  • Lifespan of 200 years
  • Length of the central span: 3,300 m
  • Rail box width: 7.5 m
  • Width of road beams: 14.2 m
One of the towers that will support the Strait of Messina bridge
One of the towers that will support the Strait of Messina bridge

Its board will have a width of approximately 60 meters. The structure will be made up of two roadways three lanes in each direction (two normal and one emergency), and a double-track railway line. They will circulate over the bridge 6,000 vehicles per hour and up to 200 trains per daywhich will revolutionize mobility in the area and throughout southern Italy.

As for the support structure, the bridge will have two metal towers each composed of two legs joined by three crossbars.

  • Height: 399 meters
  • Weight: 55,000 t

Highlights the foundation system: two circular reinforced concrete plinths joined by a crossbar (diameter 55 m for the Sicilia tower and 48 m for the Calabria tower)

The suspension system consists of two pairs of 1.26 meter diameter cables, with a length of 5,320 m between the two anchors. Each cable is made up of 349 prefabricated ropes made up of 127 threads, a total of 44,323 threads for each cable. The total weight of the four cables will be approximately 170,000 tons.

These high-strength steel vertical cables will support the deck on both sides, connecting it every 30 meters to the main cable pairs.

Regarding the road and railway works that will have to connect the bridge with the territory, they include 40 kilometers of connections, 80% of which are carried out in tunnels, and will connect the bridge, from the Calabria side, with the Mediterranean motorway. and with the Villa train station. S. Giovanni and, on the Sicilian side, to the Messina-Catania and Messina-Palermo motorways, as well as the new Messina station.

  • 20.3 km of road connections in total
  • 20.2 km of rail connections in total

The bridge is part of the layout of the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Multimodal Corridora north-south axis considered of crucial importance by the EU, a commercial railway artery that will cross Europe from Helsinki and Stockholm to Palermo and Catania to reach Malta.

The main objective of the infrastructure system is to make the transport of goods and passengers more sustainable by reducing the environmental impact by moving circulation from road to rail, and at the same time facilitate trade by eliminating bottlenecks that currently cause slowdowns and delays.

On February 14, 2024, the Transport Committee of the European Parliament ratified and approved the amendment on the review of the trans-European transport network (TEN-T) which provides for the inclusion within the “Scandinavian-Mediterranean” corridor of a stable connection with connects Calabria with Sicily.

Opposition criticism

There has been no shortage of criticism from the opposition to the relaunch of the project, who asked Congress for a report “on conflicts of interest, tenders and contracts for the Strait Bridge.” Following the investigation carried out by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica on who would already be benefiting from the decree that reactivated the old contest and the individuals who won it, the Democratic Party, 5 Stars and the Green and Left Alliance ask the minister to inform the Parliament, since the companies that are part of the Eurolink consortium, from the Italian Webuild to the Spanish Sacyr Construction and the Japanese Ihihave seen the value of their shares grow between 15 and 30% since the approval of the Ponte Decree.

There have also been complaints from environmental groups and other groups, concerned about the construction of the bridge “in the most seismic area of ​​the Mediterranean.” Federlogistica charges against the Government for continuing with the project “despite the well-argued objections of academics, university professors, technicians and environmental associations, which highlight the risks and negative effects of the bridge, as well as the numerous design and procedural irregularities “. This entity also highlights the very serious problem that the maneuverability of cruise ships and containers poses for ports and logistics, which would not pass under a bridge that is too low.

Faced with more than 200 applications submitted to the Ministry of the Environment, the Strait of Messina company has just requested an extension of 120 days in the authorization procedure deadlines. Now the new alarm arises from a technical report commissioned by the Villa San Giovanni City Council and which will be delivered to the Ministry of the Environment: the Bridge over the Strait would be destined to rest on one of the faults that ISPRA has classified as primary.

Salvini's bridge project is a failure and dangerous: we said it from the beginning. It is time to put an end to it because it is a work of pure propaganda, a harbinger of an unimaginable environmental and social impact (think of the destruction of wonderful places and expropriations) and already very costly. There really are other priorities for the country.” This is stated in a note by Annalisa Corrado, responsible for ecological conversion, climate, green economy and Agenda 2030 in the Democratic Party secretariat.

“The decision is motivated by the exceptional relevance of the work and reflects the will and maximum commitment of the company to provide timely and exhaustive responses to requests for extensions and clarifications on the technical documents of the definitive project of the bridge over the Strait of Messina, presented by the Via y Vas del Mase Commission,” said the general director of the project, Pietro Ciucci, explaining that “some in-depth studies involve field investigations, such as additional studies of terrestrial, bathymetric and underwater fauna, to which the company intends to devote maximum attention to it”.