GENOA (Reuters) - Workers in face masks laid the final section of a new viaduct in Genoa on Tuesday, as Italy’s prime minister paid tribute to the 43 people killed when the road bridge it is replacing collapsed less than two years ago.
While the country’s severe coronavirus epidemic has halted most construction projects nationwide, teams building the link across the port city’s Polcevera River defied a flood and one case of the disease to finish it on schedule.
Connecting Italy with France, the old bridge broke apart on Aug. 14, 2018, prompting national outrage.
“This cannot be a day of celebration because it derives from a tragedy but the Genoa model sheds a light on the whole of Italy,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told guests at a small ceremony held beneath the new structure.
Much of the public anger was directed at against infrastructure group Atlantia, which operated the old bridge.
Hundreds of workers in a new consortium, comprising inspection and engineering services group RINA, builder Salini Impregilo and shipbuilder Fincantieri, have been working day and night since January 2019 to erect the new structure.
With just the resurfacing left to complete, they hope to reopen the link in less than three months.
“The goal is to open the bridge to traffic in the second half of July... If we are lucky with the weather, we can make it,” said Roberto Carpaneto, CEO of RINA Consulting.
One worker - since recovered - had contracted COVID-19, obliging his 23 co-workers to be placed under quarantine.
“But we were able to manage the situation without halting the works thanks to the separation among teams,” Carpaneto told Reuters.
Even before the government imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 9 that has decimated the country’s economy, all the consortium’s workers were also provided with safety protection and had their contacts traced to manage the risk of contagion.
The death toll in Italy associated with the outbreak is close to 27,000 - the second highest in the world - and confirmed close to 200,000.
In the coming weeks, workers will lay concrete and asphalt on the viaduct, set up lighting and build in all the security systems incorporated by its Genoa-born superstar architect, Renzo Piano.
So far some 70,000 cubic metres (2.5 million cubic feet) of concrete have been used in building the bridge, which spans around 1 kilometre (0.6 miles) across the valley.
Reporting by Francesca Landini in Milan; editing by John Stonestreet