Italian contractor Webuild – formerly Impregilo – heads a consortium that was chosen in 2005 to build the 3,300m-span suspension bridge and associated links. The project was later postponed by politicians, though has continued to be talked about and the plan was resurrected last month (link opens in new tab).

Messina Bridge -  Webuild's image of the bridge

Webuild has confirmed its continued interest in carrying out the project and said that work could get under way as soon as the contract is reinstated and updated. Design would be expected to take eight months to complete and a little more than six years would be needed for construction.

The bridge would support three vehicle lanes in each direction (two for regular traffic, a third for emergencies) as well as rail services.  

Webuild engineering director Michele Longo said that the bridge is an innovative, strategic project that is ready to be built. He said that the project would support economic growth, making possible the development of one of the most extensive metro systems in the Mediterranean. It would support the improvement of the rail network in Sicily, as well as the development of a high-speed/high-capacity rail axis connecting Salerno, Reggio Calabria, Messina and Palermo.

Longo was speaking a parliamentary hearing in Rome this week on the subject of a fixed connection between Sicily and Calabria. The Eurolink Consortium, which won the tender for its construction and of which Webuild is the leader, is comprised of an international group of some of the most qualified companies in the world for the design and construction of bridges," he said. "Webuild itself has a track record of 1,018 kilometres of built bridges and viaducts in Italy and abroad, among which the second and third bridges over the Bosphorus in Turkey, and the Genova San Giorgio Bridge in Italy.

“The bridge over the Strait of Messina is a project that can break ground immediately. As soon as the contract is reinstated and updated, the project can start. The executive design is expected to take eight months, while the time needed to build the bridge will be a little more than six years. Webuild, as leader of the Eurolink Consortium, is interested in building the project and it makes itself available to the country to get to work as soon as possible.”

Longo added that the cost of the construction of the bridge – the structure alone - is approximately US$4.9 billion. This is about 40% of the total value of the infrastructure network that would include the bridge and all the related works. “The remaining 60% is in fact related to a series of works related to the crossing as well as the upgrading of the road and rail networks in Sicily and Calabria,” he said. “It also includes a considerable amount of work to prepare the terrain and reduce hydrogeological risks.”  

He added that the project would involve about 300 suppliers, especially small and medium-sized businesses from the region. More than 100,000 people would potentially be employed during the life of the project.

Longo said that, from a technical point of view, “the studies that have been conducted over time have led to the development of a type of stable aerodynamic deck (the Messina type deck) that has been deployed with success abroad in the construction of bridges with large spans such as the Çanakkale in Turkey, which is today the longest suspension bridge in the world”.

The mid-point of the bridge over the Messina Strai would have a maximum height of approximately 74m above sea level. That would guarantee a navigation channel 600m wide with a clearance of 65.5m compared with the world standard of 65m. It would allow for the safe passage of all ships that cross the Mediterranean today, said Longo. “As it is designed, the bridge is stable and secure. The span’s aerodynamic stability is guaranteed for winds of up to 300 kilometres per hour. The bridge would be accessible with winds of up to 150 kilometres per hour. As regards seismic activity, the bridge would have a structural integrity compatible for a quake measuring 7.5 on the Richter Scale, which is greater that the Messina earthquake of 1908.”