Bridge collapse highlights Italy’s infrastructure crisis

MILAN (AP) — Collapsed concrete, twisted metal, crushed cars.

While the disaster in Genoa was the deadliest in recent years, Italy has seen other bridge and highway collapses that have raised alarm about the state of its aging transportation infrastructure.

The 51-year-old Morandi Bridge was a key artery that linked highways to Milan and France, a vital lifeline for both commercial traffic as well as vacationers bound for the mountains and famous Mediterranean beaches.

“When it was inaugurated, it was vaunted as an engineering achievement, representing the most advanced technology and a model that Italy spread throughout the world,” said Antonio Occhiuzzi, president of Italy’s CNR society of civil engineers.

“It was a project that was constantly under surveillance,” he said. “Notwithstanding all these efforts, it came down. It is a little metaphor for the country.”

Designed by Italian engineer Riccardo Morandi, its unusual features included concrete-encased stay cables, which he used in several of his bridge designs instead of the more common steel cables. Experts say the concrete can deteriorate relatively quickly.

“About the project, there were a lot of concerns since the very beginning,” said Enrico Musso, a professor of transport economics at Genoa’s University of Studies. “On this kind of project, only three bridges were built around the world, and the other two already had serious problems.”

One built in Venezuela partially collapsed two years after its opening after being struck by a tanker, killing seven. Another built in Libya and opened in 1972 was shut down in October 2017, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.

Many technicians had advised replacing the Genoa bridge, too.

In the wake of Tuesday’s collapse, prosecutors are investigating both its possible design flaws as well as maintenance, although they have not identified any targets.