Strait of Messina bridge not a priority, minister says

Project set to stay in ice

Strait of Messina bridge not a priority, minister says

Rome, May 2 - Italian Industry Minister Flavio Zanonato said on Thursday that building a bridge across the Strait of Messina to connect mainland Italy to Sicily, an erstwhile dream of former premier Silvio Berlusconi, is not a priority for the new government given the current economic climate. Italy's grand-coalition government, which was sworn in on Sunday, is facing huge challenges with the country in the midst of its longest recession in 20 years. Speaking to state broadcaster's Radio 2 programme, Zanonato said that while the bridge was an interesting project, it ''is absolutely not a priority for Italy''. The planned 8.5-billion-euro suspension bridge was Berlusconi's brainchild. Last year the technocrat government of former premier Mario Monti, who replaced Berlusconi during a peak in the euro crisis in November 2011, decided not to cancel the controversial bridge project but to extend feasibility tests for another two years. Supporters say the bridge would create jobs and boost Italy's image while bringing Sicily closer to the mainland. But the bridge has been opposed by environmentalists and dogged by concerns over safety and the potential involvement of the Mafia. The 3,690-metre-long bridge has been designed to handle 4,500 cars and hour and 200 trains a day.

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