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With 94.5 km of two lanes in both directions, the new Pedemontana Veneta motorway will connect Montecchio Maggiore (Vicenza) and Spresiano (Treviso). 17 km will be in tunnels (both natural and artificial), 51 km level and 26.5 km raised. The work will cost 2.13 billion euros, with a public contribution of only 173 million euros


Fabio Quinto

At last: another great work has begun in the panorama of Italy's infrastructures. It is the Pedemontana Veneta motorway on which the work officially began on 10 November. The first sigh of relief came from towns like Arzignano, Malo, Thiene, Marostica, Bassano del Grappa, Montebelluna, Castelfranco Veneto and Cittadella, between the provinces of Vicenza and Treviso. One of the richest and most industrialized areas in Italy and in Europe that, incredible though it may seem, was without infrastructures. The old main roads and regional and provincial roads were, literally, congested: for example, the SS 11 Padana Superiore in the province of Vicenza, with 40,000 vehicles a day; or the Valsugana SS 47 around Bassano, with 30,000 vehicles a day; or the peaks of 42,000 vehicles a day on the Gasparona SS 111 between Thiene and Bassano. The excessively long travelling times in the area is also due to the high number of trucks: the technicians at Veneto Strade say that heavy vehicles make up about 40% of the traffic, but during the day - and if we include commercial vehicles of under 3.5 tons, at a rough guess the car-truck ratio is probably one to one.
The new Pedemontana Veneta motorway should prevent this state of affairs: with 94.5 km of two lanes in both directions it will connect Montecchio Maggiore (Vicenza) and Spresiano (Treviso), cross the A31 Vicenza-Piovene Rocchette at Thiene and continue to the A27 Venezia-Belluno. Of these, 17 km will be in tunnels (both natural and artificial), 51 km level and 26.5 raised. The work will cost 2.13 billion euros, with a public contribution of just 173 million euros. The rest has been provided by private parties as this is a project financing work: the company that is handling the construction is the same one that will then collect the tolls; to travel the entire length will cost 9 euros (0.095 euro/km) for cars, 12 euros (0.127 euro/km) for trucks with three axles, and 22 euros for trucks with 5 axles (0.233 euro/km). About 20% higher than those applied by Autostrade per l'Italia: it's the "price" to be paid for having motorways constructed by private parties, which now seems to be the only way that infrastructures will be built in this country. But the residents of the 70 neighbouring municipalities will be exempt. There are no exceptions for trucks, however.
According to Silvano Vernizzi, Special Commissioner for Traffic Emergencies in the provinces of Vicenza and Treviso and already "padre" of the Mestre link road, "the entire works will be open to traffic in six years' time - 2017". The first road works to begin were at Romano d'Ezzelino (Vicenza), and these will be followed in the coming months by Castelgomberto and Mason Vicentino. According to Veneto Strade technicians, once the motorway is opened, it should attract something like 43,000 vehicles a day (35-40% of which will be heavy vehicles), and will not only contribute to lightening local traffic, it will also attract some of the traffic from the A4 between Vicenza and Venice.
But the Pedemontana Veneta motorway is an agonizing story that began in far off 1961. At the time, the idea was to build an artery to help the development of Veneto that was economically behind compared to the rest of northern Italy. With the passing of the years, the tables were turned: the infrastructures had to keep up with an increasingly richer territory in need of mobility. In the '80s the start of road works appeared to be close at hand: but a tight state budget and, above all, opposition by many municipalities and environmentalists (numerous protesters were also present at the inauguration) delayed the construction of the motorway several times. The first public funding of 243 million euros arrived in 1998, but it imposed the "maximum reuse of the existing foundations". At last, in 2001, an agreement was reached between the municipalities at the "Conferenza dei Servizi". And the Pedemontana Veneta motorway was officially transformed into a "clearway". There will still be tolls and two lanes in each direction plus an emergency lane, but it will be narrower: 24 metres instead of 25.5, with tighter bends (to guarantee a suitable "slalom" between buildings, houses and areas of particular natural beauty) and a minimum distance of 20 instead of 60 metres between newly-constructed buildings. In 2005, the work applied the accelerated procedures of the "Legge Obiettivo" (Law 443/2001) until the approval of the environmental impact assessment, which, however, meant that some modifications had to be made to make it less of an impact on the territory. In March 2006, through CIPE (the inter-ministerial committee for economic programming) the government gave the okay for the preliminary project; the following October, the Veneto Region called for tenders from private parties to carry out and manage the work. There followed a long battle at the Regional Administrative Court (TAR) and the Council of State, which ended on 31 March 2009. So SIS completed the project and the last clashes with some municipalities were resolved. After months of continual delays, the work has started at last.

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