Italy has long considered building a bridge connecting the island of Sicily to the mainland.
The massive engineering project had been in the works for decades before being shelved in 2013.
The plans have now been revived by Italy’s new right-wing government.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has stated that she will ask the EU for assistance in funding the multibillion-euro proposal.
Can you drive from Sicily to the rest of Italy?
Currently, you can travel to Sicily by plane, boat, or train carried by a ferry from mainland Italy. However, the concept of a bridge connecting the two land masses has been debated since Roman times.
According to some historians, the ancient Romans did, in fact, construct one out of barrels and boats.
The dream of connecting Sicily to the mainland was revived by dictator Benito Mussolini, but it wasn’t until Silvio Berlusconi’s government in the early 2000s that the scheme received funding from Brussels.
The Messina Strait Company was awarded the construction contract in 2009.
The proposed rail and road link would connect the Sicilian city of Messina with the mainland region of Calabria.
However, plans were abandoned in 2013 after former Prime Minister Mario Monti closed the construction company as part of a series of austerity measures.
Why is Sicily not connected to mainland Italy by a bridge?
The plans for a suspension bridge connecting Sicily and the mainland have not received unanimous approval.
Proponents argue that the link will help boost the island’s stagnant economy and narrow the gap between the country’s wealthy north and poorer south.
Supporters also claim that it will allow cargo ships passing through the Suez Canal to load their cargo onto trains in Sicily.
This would allow them to be transported quickly up to the country’s north, saving money on long sea voyages.
The rail and road link would also relieve pressure on the overcrowded ferry services that transport cars, trucks, and trains across the Strait of Messina.
However, opponents argue that the massive bridge would be a waste of public funds and a risky undertaking in an active seismic zone.
Environmentalists are also concerned about the threat to local ecosystems and the aesthetic degradation of the landscape.
When will construction on the Strait of Messina bridge begin?
Meloni reinstated the company that would oversee the construction of the Strait of Messina suspension bridge in her first budget since taking office as PM last month.
“It is the government and legislature’s ambition to lay the first stone and begin construction on this blessed project,” said Matteo Salvini, Italy’s infrastructure minister and coalition party leader.
The proposed road and rail connection would have a central span of more than 3km, making it the world’s longest suspension bridge.
If the project proceeds, it is expected to cost several billion euros. Meloni has stated that she will seek financial assistance from the EU.
Salvini stated that he would discuss the project on December 5 in Brussels.
He also stated that construction would begin in two years and would take approximately five years to complete.
“Beginning work on the Strait Bridge is one of my goals,” Salvini told Italian broadcaster RAI last month.
“In addition to pollution and time waste, ferry transportation costs people more in a year than it would cost to build the bridge.”