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Messina bridge work to start in Dec

Italy emerging from public works 'slumber', Berlusconi says

14 October, 22:39

(ANSA) - Rome, October 14 - Work on a bridge connecting Sicily to the Italian mainland will begin between December and January, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said on Wednesday.

''Italy must wake up from a long slumber which has created an infrastructure gap that has hindered us from fully exploiting our wealth and potential,'' the premier said during the presentation of development plans for the airports in Rome and Milan.

The Messina bridge, which once built would be the longest suspension bridge in the world, was originally greenlighted by Berlusconi's previous government eight years ago but was shelved by an intervening centre-left government.

Berlusconi revived the project when he returned to office in May of last year.

Supporters hail the project as a huge job-creation scheme that would give Italy's image a major boost while bringing Sicily closer to the mainland in both physical, psychological and social terms.

But it has been opposed by environmentalists and dogged by concerns over its safety and fears of potential Mafia involvement.

The 3,690-metre-long bridge has been designed to be able to handle 4,500 cars an hour and 200 trains a day and would replace slow ferry services between the island and the mainland.

The 6.5-billion-euro bridge is set to be completed in 2017.

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