The Strait of Messina Bridge is a project intended to create a 3.300 m bridge across the Strait of Messina, to link Sicily with Calabria, the southern tip of mainland Italy. The bridge would be the largest suspension bridge in the world, with both road and rail sections and would be part of the Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T) line connecting Central and Southern Europe. The bridge project has been met by increasing opposition by the "No Ponte" movement, initially constituted by local citizens and now expanded and networked with other national movement against big infrastructures.
The idea to link Sicily with the continent through the strait dates back to Roman times, but a real planning stage started in the 1960s. In 1969 the Italian ministry of Transport arranged an international design competition for planning the crossing of the Strait. In 1971 a law was issued for the creation of a private company, concessionaire for the design, implementation and management of a road and rail connection. In 1981, the company Stretto di Messina S.p.A. was set up. In 1992, the preliminary project for a bridge crossing the strait was presented. In the 80s, the first protests emerged against the imposition of the mega project in an area severely damaged by unregulated overbuilding and with other priorities to improve urban development. In the 90s, local citizens focused on disseminating information and garnered the support of the green and communist parties. Starting from 2001, real mobilization began (demonstrations, camping, civil disobedience and legal actions). In July 2002, the first camp in opposition to the project was organized on the Strait shores, and others followed. The movement became increasingly popular and the support from environmental associations and national committees increased. The No Ponte movement criticizes the project for its environmental impacts on a unique landscape protected by the European Union located within two Special Protection Areas and affecting in both regions 11 Sites of Community Importance. Other criticism entails the financial sustainability of the infrastructure whose cost has risen over the years and would have to rely on tolls to support the project financing. Nevertheless, estimated traffic data demonstrate the improbability to cover the costs of the project based on tolls . The movement expresses concern about the likely risk of mafia infiltration in the financing or in the procurement system, later confirmed by judiciary investigations. Moreover, the protests have seriously put into question the technical feasibility of the infrastructure and its location in an area of high seismic risk.
However, on October 2005 the role of General Contractor was assigned to the consortium Eurolink as a result of a tender. Completion was planned in six years at a projected cost of €3.9 billion. In the same year investigations of the District Anti Mafia discovered an attempt by local mafia to infiltrate in the works. In 2006, the largest demonstration No Ponte took place in Messina, with 20,000 participants.
In the following years, the alternation of governments and decisions on the big infrastructure put at risk the construction, but in 2008 the new government led by the prime minister Berlusconi decided to restart the project to build the bridge. In 2009 preparatory work started. In reaction to it, in December 2009 a big demonstration with 10.000 participants was organized in the construction sites, with a huge amount of police forces employed for the control of the event.
In 2010, Eurolink deliver the final design of the bridge to the Stretto di Messina S.p.A, the new estimated cost was €8.5 billion. Subsequently, environmental groups drafted official letters of their observations on the unsustainability of the project as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment procedure. In 2011, the European Union excluded the bridge from public works designed to receive EU funding for 2014-2020. In 2012, the Committee for Economic Planning (CIPE) removed funding for the project. The new technocratic government decided to stop the project for lack of funds and extend for two years the terms for approval of the final project to prove technical and financial feasibility. In 2013, the Stretto di Messina S.p.A. was put into liquidation. The consortium Eurolink asked a monetary compensation to the Italian State for the cancelling of the project. The latter in its preliminary stage and promotion has already cost €500 million and constructors are requesting €700 million. In 2013 a demonstration was organized by the No Ponte movement in objection to the payment of the penalty.