ITALY'S GOVERNMENT last week approved plans to build the world's longest single span suspension bridge across the Messina Straits between Sicily and mainland Italy.
The government is to foot half the projected £3.33bn construction bill and is now preparing to invite matching private sector finance.
Invitation documents will be ready within 70 days, said technical director at state-owned project development company Stretto di Messina, Enzo Vulla.
It is planned that the 3.3km central span bridge will be built and operated under a 30 year plus concession agreement, said Vulla.
Providing private sector investors give backing, construction contracts will be advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union by the end of the year, he added.
First proposed two decades ago, detailed design for the Messina Bridge is around 75% complete (NCE 10 August 2000).
Design has been led by UK longspan bridge pioneer William Brown.
Messina Bridge will have back-span cables anchored 960m back on the Sicilian side and 810m back on the Italian mainland.
Towers will be 370m high. Two 13.2m decks carrying three lanes of traffic apiece will flank a 9.4m wide central deck supporting twin rail tracks.
Supported on beams at 30m intervals, the decks are to be separated by an 8m wide open area to minimise risk of 'flutter' - wind induced oscillation and rotation of the bridge deck which can result in its selfdestruction.
Construction of the all steel structure is expected to take eight years.