September 16, 2006

Il Futuro Del Sud

The future of southern Italy may, or may not, start construction in the very near future. The Straits of Messina are, at their easternmost point, just over two miles wide. The Italian government decided some time ago to bridge the Straits, and a private consortium has been created to build the bridge. It would be, by far, the longest suspension bridge in the world.

To the left is a Google Earth image of the straits that I created this afternoon. The island of Sicily appears to the west and north, Calabria (the toe of Italy's boot) to the east and south. The image is from a simulated eight of just under eleven miles above the earth, and the line representing the approximate path of the bridge is 2.11 miles.

There are three main objections to the project. One is environmental, in that the bridge may distrupt the habitat of certain marine animals that live in the strait. This seems to be a relatively minimal problem (at least after construction is completed). The second is the expense; Romano Prodi's new center-left government of Italy is balking at the six-billion Euro cost of the bridge. The third is that the infrastructure on Siciliy is not up to par -- there is no highway linking the proposed landing point of the bridge and major Sicilian cities like Siracusa. There are also fears that the Mafia will take over construction (what, corruption in Italy? I'm shocked, shocked at the idea).

Still, it seems to me that the bridge project would be a very good thing for Italy and particularly for Sicily. The linkage of an Italian mainland autostrada with the Sicilian road network will facilitate commerce and business on the island, and provide growth opportunities for the area, and the rest of the infrastructure -- as well as other forms of economic growth -- will come as a result. The bridge will also become a tourist attraction in its own right, just as the Golden Gate, Brooklyn, and Tower Bridges have.

Governments and peoples have to continually invest in and upgrade their infrastructures. People also have to have great projects to believe in and work towards their collective greatness and rally towards. One of the finest hours of the United States was the Apollo Program. This bridge, and the preservation of Venice, are such big collective projects for Italy in particular, and Europe as a whole. So good luck to our friends in Italy in their projects for the future!

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