Messina Straits Crossing Proposed

Messina Straits Crossing Proposed

© B2 Archive

The Bridge

Bill Brown’s career in bridge design and engineering reached a fitting conclusion when he became head designer for the proposed Messina Strait Bridge from Italy to Sicily. He devised an ultra-long 3,300m single-span suspension bridge with an innovative multi-box deck to carry two rail tracks and six lanes for traffic.

He had been seriously considering the span for over 10 years and had made thousands of sketches and calculations and wind tunnel tests. In 1989 he committed all of his creative energy and engineering knowledge to producing 54 master design drawings for the bridge span.

New Multi-box Deck Concept

Messina Strait Bridge deck cross-section, Stretto di Messina, 1992

Messina Straits Crossing

Proposed ultra-long bridge linking Italy and Sicily

Key Facts

Proposed design has a world record suspended span of 3,300m

A major advance in suspension bridge design

Completed design is ready for construction


Linking Sicily to Italian mainland

Across the Messina Strait

Between Villa San Giovanni in Reggio di Calabria and Messina’s Torre Faro

Lead Designer

Dr William (Bill) Brown

Brown Beech and Stretto di Messina SpA


Single span suspension bridge

3,300m main span

6 lanes, 2 rail tracks, 2 service roads

The challenge

Wide, deep and treacherous waters

High winds

Earthquake fault

Engineering solution

Single suspended span

Three-box aerodynamic deck

Two sets of dual main cables

Will it be built?

A bridge across the Messina Strait would connect Italy and Sicily and enable a high-speed train line to central Europe.

Decades of development have been invested in the scheme, yet it never quite manages to reach the construction phase. In 2004, Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi announced his intention to resurrect the project. Stretto di Messina embarked on a series of presentations to promote the bridge project and attract tenders for construction. They visited New York, Paris, Tokyo and London. At the Institution of Civil Engineers in London, they presented Bill with a commemorative silver salver in recognition of his lead role in the design of the bridge scheme.

Successive Italian governments have failed to agree on a way forward. The bridge plans were cancelled in 2006, brought back again when Berlusconi regained power in 2009, only to be scrapped once more in 2013.

Other long-span bridges