Berlusconi was elected prime minister in 2008 and revived the project, which was re-approved three years later — even though the cost rose from 6.16 billion euros ($6.72 billion) to 8.5 billion euros. But soon after, Berlusconi lost his majority and resigned in the face of the eurozone’s deep debt crisis. His successor, Mario Monti, a respected technocrat, canceled the project for the last time in 2013.
Now, the same project has been revived by the current government, which in mid-March approved a decree paving the way for the construction of the bridge. This time, Berlusconi’s support was backed by Matteo Salvini, now 86-year-old deputy prime minister and leader of the Populist League party, who posted on Instagram the day the decree was signed. .
Nicola Chilotti, a lecturer in diplomacy and international management at Loughborough University in London, said one of the reasons for the project’s resurgence was that there were more people who could find work planning for the scheme. Although it is not realistic and there are some interested groups who would be happy to hold the money.
“It is more expensive than building the bridge,” Salvini himself said.
Another issue, Chiloti added, is that the project is an important political pastiche for a government that has so far made some key electoral promises, such as tax reform and a tough stance on international finance.
But the strong politicization of the project, which has led to opposition mainly from the right and the left – may also be a case of “infrastructural populism” as Angelini puts it. “The talk around the bridge is fueling nationalism; “The idea is taken as a symbol of Italy’s greatness or ability to build a bridge longer than anyone else,” he said.
The current design for the crossing is a 3,300 meter long single-span suspension bridge. This is 60 percent longer than the Canakkale Bridge in Turkey, currently the world’s longest suspension bridge at 2,023 meters. With pylons 380 meters (1,250 ft) high, the Messina Strait Bridge will be the world’s longest in structural height, surpassing the 342-meter-high Millau Viaduct in France. It can transport 6,000 road vehicles per hour and 200 trains per day, and since its length is 65 meters above the water, marine traffic can pass under it without worry.
The train journey between the island and the mainland – currently including a two-hour ferry ride – will be cut to less than 10 minutes, bringing the nearly 5 million people who live in Sicily closer to the rest of Italy.
According to Muscolino, previous plans had two pylons built in the sea, each 80 to 100 meters below sea level. Given the strong currents in the straits, these were impractical and dangerous for navigation.