Longest suspension bridge in the world to be built in Italy

The longest suspension bridge in the world, with a 2.05-mile span, 1,200-foot-high towers and cables several feet thick, could connect the Italian mainland with Sicily in the near future.

The Italian government approved plans for the bridge in April and has started out on a search for a general contractor for the $7.5 billion project. On May 25, officials from southern Italy traveled to New York City to stir up interest in the contract, which has still not been awarded.

Construction is set to start by the end of 2005, and planners have promised that it will take only six years to complete. Construction of the bridge will be paid for eventually by tolls, according to officials, who expect that approximately 200 trains a day and 6,000 vehicles an hour will travel on it.

Although the bridge would ease the current congestion in which travelers wait up to two hours for a ferry to and from Sicily, the project has met much criticism. The Sicilian local government has talked of building such a bridge for years, but no construction has occurred. Some Italians fear the project will be taken over and corrupted by the mafia, which is prevalent in Sicily. Others fear construction of the bridge will never be completed because of a lack of funds. While many Sicilians hope a bridge would strengthen their weak economy, some worry a bridge to the mainland will deteriorate their island culture and destroy historic buildings.

According to a feasibility study by the U.S.-based Parsons group, which designed the Carquinez Bridge in California, the bridge between Italy’s mainland and Sicily can be built, but several factors will have to be taken into consideration. The area is extremely prone to earthquakes and is close to Mount Etna, an active volcano that can produce volatile toxic emissions.