Genova - They’re Italy’s “largest public works projects”, aimed at road traffic and at accommodating ships: the Gronda highway bypass and the new seawall at the port of Genoa. They represent, together with the Third tunnel rail project, the best weapon against Genoa’s geographical isolation. And they will come with years of construction zones to deal with. Since yesterday morning, both projects are a little closer to becoming reality. According to Minister of Transport Graziano Delrio, actually, “by the end of next year,” work should start on the giant Gronda di Ponente highway bypass. As for the seawall enlargement that will improve access to Italy’s most important port, the design stage of the project is set to start anytime. Delrio timed his announcement of the two projects with the inauguration of the 57th Genoa Boat Show (and followed it up with a meeting at Palazzo San Giorgio). And that may help explain why even centre-right leaders such as Governor Giovanni Toti or Mayor Marco Bucci were seen applauding his speech.
GRONDA, THE GO-AHEAD IN 2018
Delrio’s signature on the decree approving the Gronda highway project, was dated September 9 of last year; then he described it as one of “public utility”. Meanwhile, in the EU, the wheels have been turning: “We’ve signed a pre-agreement with EU Commissioner Verstaghen.” The pre-agreement was needed to extend the concession of Autostrade per l’Italia (expiring in 2038) by four years without calls for tender. This was seen as a crucial step to allow the amortization of the Gronda costs to be spread over several years. That means that toll increases will be kept to within 0.5% above the rate of inflation per year, compared to earlier threats of a 15% rise (which would’ve been politically unsustainable and too expensive for motorists).
The 2018 start mentioned by the minister will just involve the preliminaries (land reclamation, setting up of support sites) to the eventual five construction sites envisaged throughout the region: Cornigliano, Voltri, Bolzaneto, Genoa East and Torbella.
The go-ahead signal from the Ministry also means other things: the launch of the final design of the project (due in August 2018), and the start of expropriation procedures for the 98 homes and the 30 businesses to be demolished. According to ASPI, the estimated duration of the works is seven to eight years. Actual traffic on the new bypass will not flow until 2026, but the “Gronda”, which has been wished for since 2003, now looks like a certainty. “It will be a historic change for Genoa,” predicted Toti, the governor of Liguria.
FUNDING READY FOR NEW SEAWALL
Genoa’s new port seawall is among the works that the Minister of Transport considers a “priority”. The enlargement will allow the port to accommodate the latest types of mega-container ships, those above the 20-thousand-TEU mark. Delrio gave assurances that there was “widespread availability” on the part of the government, to ensure the implementation of the infrastructure project “as soon as possible”. The dossier was discussed yesterday at Palazzo San Giorgio, where the minister met with the chairman of the ports of Genoa and Savona, Paolo Emilio Signorini: “There are investments that need to be speeded up,” the minister explained. The government will provide the Authority with an immediate twelve million euros for further feasibility studies.
The initial plans, which envisaged the construction of a new seawall by partly demolishing the existing one opposite the Sampierdarena basin, have now been modified. The current plan, in fact, is to focus on the eastern zone of the harbour, demolishing a part of the seawall near the Calata Bettolo and building a new portion further away from land: “We have ruled out using the western zone,” said Signorini, “because experts reported that the waves could cause problems. Some 800 million euros will be required for the next stage.”
THE BOAT SHOW? ONLY IN GENOA
It is no coincidence that two highly anticipated announcements came on the opening day of the 57th Boat Show dedicated to Carlo Riva. Genoa is counting on the relaunch of such a key industry, that’s experienced double-digit growth over the past two years. So, the President of Confindustria, Francesco Boccia, is ready to turn the page after the controversies and discord of recent years: “The Boat Show? It could be held anywhere, provided it is in Genoa. We must not look confused in front of the watching world, but display pride for Europe’s second largest manufacturing sector.”