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17/05/2011
Raod works ahead

Infrastructures

 

The main road work carried out in recent years was on the Mestre link road, 32 km of motorway that allow ca rs and heavy trucks to dribble along the highly congested junction in the Venice area, a veritable "cork" in the entire north-east flow.

by Massimo Lanari

Although much work has started in recent years, the Italian motorway network is still penalized by the time it takes, the consequent congestion on existing roads and motorways, and the maintenance of many main roads


One of the variables that influence tyre wear is the state of the roads. If you want confirmation, just pay a visit to the Mercedes-Benz research centres in Stuttgart: road surface conditions, which vary from country to country, are one of the fundamental variables that the German company's technicians take into consideration before making a new model. And, as we know, from this aspect Italy is in a bad way: the now chronic lack of infrastructures has led to traffic congestion on existing roads and motorways, with long queues and never-ending hassles. While the time it takes to do the work and the dreadful state of maintenance of many main roads just make the situation worse. And yet something seems to have moved in recent years. But there are still many problems: the following is a panorama of what has been done and what is still to be done.
The main road work carried out in recent years was on the Mestre link road, 32 km of motorway that allow cars and heavy trucks to dribble along the highly congested junction in the Venice area, a veritable "cork" in the entire north-east flow. Now, two years since it began, we can see the effects of the link road: according to the traffic police, from 1 April to 20 July 2008 - so before the link road opened - there were 224 accidents, 5 of which were fatal and 162 with injuries. During the same period one year later, and with the link road opened, the figures dropped to 152 accidents, 3 of which fatal and 123 with injuries. Still in the Veneto region, after thirty years of delays and polemics, the Portogruaro-Pordenone-Conegliano A28 was also completed. But it is certainly not enough: the A4 between Venice and Trieste still has to be widened from two to three lanes. A stretch with large numbers of heavy vehicles many of which - frequently illegally and in defiance of the most elementary rules of safety - come from eastern European countries. They are forbidden to overtake, which creates a long, winding and uninterrupted procession in the right-hand lane, leaving only the left lane for cars. Last December, the first road works began between Quarto d'Altino and San Donà di Piave (in addition to the work to turn the Villesse-Gorizia link road into a motorway) and they should be completed in 2013. But it's going to take a long time to get to Trieste. This is because widening the road cost 1.8 billion euros, entirely financed by Autovie Venete which it will recoup by increasing tolls. But because of the recession, the banks have turned off the financial taps and so completing the entire project - here as elsewhere - could take longer. The same goes for the Pedemontana, the new motorway that should link Montecchio Maggiore (Vicenza) to Spresiano (Treviso). The start of work that is essential for the industrial zones in the northeast has undergone a series of yearlong delays: at the centre, bureaucratic complications but also the opposition of many municipalities that continually request changes to the project and, as I said, the financial knot.
In Lombardy, expectations are all focused on Expo 2015 and, in particular, the infrastructures for this event: a year and a half ago, work began on the Brebemi, the new Milan-Brescia motorway. Work that will cost 1.6 billion euros, also provided entirely by private shareholders in Brebemi SpA (which include Banca Intesa and Milano-Serravalle). "The work has advanced by 9.5%", said the managing director of Brebemi SpA, Bruno Bottiglieri. "There are road works almost all the way along the 50 km of the motorway axis. To reach the total of 62 km, including the relevant roads and junctions, new work will begin between spring and summer this year. Just recently we had important talks with the financing system and we are very confident about availability. At this stage, 75% of the resources required is guaranteed by the banking system, 25% by shareholders, with capital of 180 million euros that will soon increase to 520". It is forecast to open to traffic in April 2013. But the Brebemi will be of little use if work does not begin also on the east ring road outside Milan (Tem): in fact the new Milan-Brescia motorway stops near Melzo, about 20 km from the capital of Lombardy. This should be carried out by Tem, but its project procedure seems to be behind: the final project was approved only in February and work cannot start before the end of 2011 for completion in 2015. In the meantime, however, according to Tem SpA chairman, Fabio Terragni, "the ring road that will connect the Brebemi to the new Cassanese and Rivoltana clearways and then to the present east ring road outside Milan will be completed by 2013". But the most important worked for Expo 2015 is the Lombardy Pedemontana, the motorway that will link Busto Arsizio (Varese) to Dalmine (Bergamo) through Brianza and the entire area north of Milan, one of the most congested and built-up residential and industrial areas in Europe. The work began in 2010 on the first stretch between Varesotto and Lomazzo (Como). Until a few months ago, work on the longest stretch of the motorway that goes from Lomazzo to Dalmine was scheduled to start in May 2011: but now the company has announced that it cannot start before the autumn. This is due to some bureaucratic hitches and the extension of tender expiry time to 15 April 2011.
The biggest ongoing motorway road works in Italy are certainly on the Valico alternative route, a new motorway that will be in addition to the present one that crosses the Tosco-Emilia Apennines. According to Autostrade per l'Italia, the three stretches on the Emilia side as far as Pian del Voglio (Badia) have advanced by 71.6%, 64.9% and 23.5%, respectively. "The 8.6-km-long tunnel in the heart of the Tosco-Emilia Apennines was completed on 21 December 2010. So 82.9% of the entire stretch has been completed. For the descent from Aglio to Barberino in Tuscany, "88.7% and 73.2% of the work has been completed". The entire stretch "is forecast to open by 2013", but "Autostrade aims to open the 22 km between Badia and Aglio by the end of 2012". But the completion of the Italian infrastructure disaster cannot be achieved on the legendary Salerno-Reggio Calabria. After no less than 13 years of road works, it is still a long way from completion: only the Campania stretch of the motorway should be finished by the summer. The Basilicata stretch will have to wait, as Anas has declared several times, at least until 2013. For the same year, Anas has announced that it wants to open the entire motorway to traffic, but this is simply not possible, because road works have not yet begun on many stretches, like those in the area of Castrovillari or south of Cosenza, for example. If everything goes well, they won't be completed until 2017. Given these times, the bridge over the Strait of Messina remains a mirage.
That is the situation. In the next issues we'll take a detailed, area by area, look at the state of individual infrastructures.

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