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Morandi Bridge Named, Opening Announced

Friday, June 26, 2020

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Twenty-two months after the tragic collapse, on Monday (June 22), officials announced the inauguration of the new Morandi bridge—known as “Ponte Morandi”—in Genoa, Italy.

The first person to drive across the structure was Pietro Salini, CEO of Salini Impregilo—the Italian construction and civil engineering business that carried out the project’s infrastructure works.

Morandi Bridge Collapse

Late in the morning on Aug. 14, 2018, lightning struck the Morandi Bridge. At the time, 35-mile-per-hour winds were recorded with a thunderstorm moving through the area. A 200-meter (656-foot) section of the prestressed concrete span collapsed, killing 43 people and creating a gulf between two sections of the bridge.

The cable-stayed concrete bridge, also known as the Polcevera Viaduct, completed in 1968, was designed by Italian civil engineer Riccardo Morandi. According to the website Retrofutur, the bridge is characterized, as are other Morandi structures, by thin prestressed concrete girders and relatively few stays. Three A-shaped concrete pylons held four prestressed stays apiece. The website has chronicled numerous projects over the years to reinforce the structure, including steel sheaths over the concrete pylons.

While experts believe that structural weakness and decaying steel rods contributed to the collapse, previous warnings about the condition of the bridge were issued years before disaster struck. For example, in 2012, the leader of Genoa's business federation noted that the bridge could collapse within 10 years. In 2011, a report from Autostrade per l'Italia, the operator of the A10 highway that ran over the bridge, warned of intense decay.

As for the legal case surrounding the disaster, 71 people were accused, ranging from managers to civil servants, involving more than 100 lawyers, 120 experts and 75 witnesses.

By November, officials announced that they had begun testing debris from the site to help determine what caused the collapse. At the same time, Genoa Mayor Marco Bucci announced that the demolition of what remains of the Morandi Bridge would begin Dec. 15, 2019, which would make way for a new overpass over the city.

In late June of last year, towers of the Morandi Bridge were demolished. According to the BBC, the two towers brought down amounted to around 4,500 tons of concrete and steel. Water tanks were also put around the tower bases to help prevent dust becoming an issue in the immediate area.

Ponte Morandi Design, Construction

In December 2018, officials announced that Italian architect Renzo Piano would be overseeing the structure’s replacement, using his own design which featured 43 posts, each one honoring a victim of the collapse.

According to reports, the design involved having a 3,600-foot-long main steel deck running across 20 spans, supported by 18 elliptical reinforced concrete piers placed at 164-foot increments. The exception was a set of piers that would be set 328 feet apart to account for the Polcevera River. Solar energy stored during the day is slated to power the bridge’s lights and lamps at night, which will cast light shaped like a ship’s sails.

Steel elements for the project were provided by Fincantieri, from its Genoa-Sestri Ponente shipyard, with work being distributed to other shipyards, as necessary. The steel deck was assembled in parts onsite.

Additionally, to ensure the tragedy never repeats, the bridge has also been equipped with its own monitoring system and a fleet of robots which will monitor the hull, should any alarming structural changes occur.

The structure has been designed to last at least 100 years.

By February, officials announced that work on the bridge’s replacement had surpassed the halfway mark, with 16 of the 18 40-meter-high (131 feet) columns—which are partially sunk 50 meters into the ground—were constructed and seven out of 19 deck sections were laid into place.

Although Italy experienced a lockdown in March due to COVID-19, reports indicate that strict safety measures were enforced so that the project could continue. According to CNN, during this time, only one employee tested positive in late March, and has since returned to work along with colleagues who had been in contact with him and had underwent a quarantine period.

The strict safety procedures including daily temperature monitoring, daily contact tracing, hand sanitizer distribution and social distancing, among others, were coordinated by RINA Consulting, which was brought onto the project has a project manager for the replacement.

Throughout the course of the project, RINA reported that it had underwent approximately 600 audits dealing with technical, quality, safety and environmental aspects of both the demolition and reconstruction plans, was subject to 2,000 inspections at production plants and onsite, and generated 3,000 technical documents.

In April, joint venture Pergenova, made up of construction and civil engineering business Salini Impregilo and shipbuilder Fincantieri, announced that the final span for the Morandi Bridge replacement project had been installed, marking the imminent completion of the new infrastructure.

However, crews still hadn’t completed laying down asphalt and the structure hadn’t been officially named, either.

Ponte Morandi Inauguration

At the time of the structure’s inauguration, Salini said, “To pass this bridge today is a unique sensation. It tells about all of the effort and passion of these months, but it also says that major infrastructures in Italy can be built, and that it can happen in a short time.”

A number of institutional representatives were present for the event, including Bucci and Lega leader Matteo Salvini.

While the bridge is slated to officially open for public use on July 27, the government still has to decide on what concession will operate the infrastructure. Although Forbes reports that the appointed company should be Autostrade per l’Italia, who was previously managing the Morandi bridge, controversy has spewed about the company since the former bridge’s collapse.

“We have an urgency to know who is going to manage the bridge and is going to carry out the final tests. It is an obligation in order to open the bridge," said Bucci.

Salvini chimed in, adding that, “If the government does not make a decision over this, we will have a new bridge with a great view over the sea and harbor, but nothing more.”


Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Bridges; Completed projects; EU; Europe; Fatalities; Health and safety; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Program/Project Management; Project Management

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