The Italian Government is putting forward a proposal for a new bridge linking the island of Sicily with the Italian mainland. Construction of the bridge will cost an estimated €9 billion and should take an estimated six years to complete, with a proposed commencement date in 2024.
The Messina Strait bridge would be more than 3.2km long and the project is intended to give an economic boost to Sicily as well as the depressed South Italian mainland. Building the link would reduce journey times and replace the ferries currently in use. The link would be tolled, which would pay back the cost of its construction. The bridge would feature the longest central span of any suspension bridge in the world if completed.
There have been proposals to build a bridge crossing over the Messina Strait since Roman times, 2,000 years ago, when a pontoon type structure was suggested. At various times over the centuries, ambitious plans have been put forward for the link, with the number of proposals having gained in pace since the mid-19th century. More recently, there was a proposal to build a suspension bridge linking Italy's southern Calabria region with Sicily in the 1990s, which was cancelled in 2006. This plan was revived in 2009 and then cancelled once more in 2013. At that time the bridge came with an expected pricetag in excess of €6 billion and the proposal collapsed amidst a shortage of funding and legal squabbles.
The project is controversial and will undoubtedly face major technical challenges as the area is known for its major earthquakes as well as the strong tidal flow through the Messina Strait. There is also a degree of cynicism in Italy over the proposals for the bridge, given that the project has been proposed on so many previous occasions over a period spanning some 2,000 years.