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Age-Old Plan to Link Sicily, Mainland Gets Off Ground

October 13, 2005|From Reuters

ROME — A centuries-old project to link mainland Italy to the island of Sicily took a major step forward Wednesday when an international consortium won a multibillion-dollar contract to build a bridge between them.

It would be the longest suspension bridge in the world, with a central span measuring 2.1 miles, nearly three times longer than San Francisco's Golden Gate. Its two towers would be 1,257 feet high, taller than the Eiffel Tower.

The 200-foot-wide bridge would have 10 lanes for cars, trains and emergency vehicles, and would be able to handle 6,000 cars per hour and 200 trains a day.

If all the cables that would be used to support it were put end to end, they would circle Earth five times.

The Italian state-controlled company overseeing the project announced that an international consortium led by Italian firm Impregilo had been awarded the lucrative contract.

Impregilo said it had put in a bid worth $4.65 billion.

The idea of linking Italy's toe to Sicily was first discussed in Roman times. Construction is scheduled to begin next year and to be completed in 2012, but the bridge's many critics doubt whether cash-strapped Italy will complete the massive project.

At present, travelers must take a ferry to cross the Messina Strait to Sicily from a site near the town of Reggio di Calabria.

Environmentalists said the bridge was potentially hazardous because it would lie in an active earthquake zone. But architects said it would be able to withstand a sizable quake.

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