PREQUALIFICATION BIDDING for construction of what will be the world's longest single span suspension bridge began at the beginning of the year.
Client Stretto di Messina advertised for a main contractor in the European Union Official Journal in January, said technical director Enzo Vulla.
The Messina Bridge, linking the toe of Italy with Sicily, will push suspension bridge construction far beyond current limits with a 3.3km main span.
Construction cost is estimated at E4.3bn.
Bidding will be a two stage process. Following prequalification, Stretto di Messina will issue invitations to tender in April/May. A main contractor should be in place by the end of 2004, ready to break ground in early 2005, Vulla said.
A consortium led by Italian contractors Impregilo and Astaldi is already gearing up for the bid.
The group, known as Ponte sullo Stretto, includes US giant Parsons, Japanese contractor Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries, and Italian firms Condotte, Pizzarotti, CCC and CMC.
The job is expected to excite international interest, but so far no other potential consortia have raised their heads, Vulla said.
UK contractor Cleveland Bridge and cable manufacturer Bridon are understood to have been holding talks with the Impregilo/Astaldi consortium and with Stretto di Messina over the supply of steel for cables and deck, and possible construction techniques.
The size of the project means it will eat up much of the world's cable manufacturing capacity during the five year construction period.