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Planned highway would shorten trip between Aviano, Vicenza

The shortest distance between two points might be a straight line, but navigating between the two largest U.S. bases in northern Italy isn’t so simple. It could be easier in about seven years, though.

The government of the Veneto region awarded a contract last month to a group of firms — headed by Impregilo S.p.A. — to construct a highway that would link the outskirts of Vicenza with the A27 autostrada — bypassing the crowded A4 autostrada. Combined with the link of the A28 autostrada with the A27 — projected around 2010 — the new route would be the shortest between Vicenza and Aviano Air Base.

Airborne soldiers based at Caserma Ederle in Vicenza use Aviano for training and for hooking up with planes for long deployments: The 173rd Airborne Brigade’s last three deployments downrange have all involved launches from Aviano.

“We think it’s great,” said Maj. Ryan Dillon, public affairs officer for the Southern European Task Force (Airborne). “Operationally, any time you can avoid the Mestre traffic, it’s a good thing.”

Taxpayers in the Veneto region aren’t funding the project to help out Americans, though. Sebastiano Carron, a press officer for the region, said the area simply needs more freeway support. Industries currently located in areas north and east of Vicenza have a difficult time getting their goods to market.

The regional government will contribute 173 million euros initially to the 2.4 billion euro project and might provide about 14 million euros annually to support its operations. The consortium awarded the contract will have control of the toll way for 39 years — including the 6½ years it takes to construct it.

Pending an environmental study, construction is expected to start later this year.

The new highway will begin west of Vicenza at Montecchio Maggiore, veer north of the city and then head east to connect with the A27 near Spresiano (about halfway between Conegliano and Treviso). About 45,000 cars are expected to use at least parts of the 90-kilometer road every day. The regional government, which takes control of the road after the contract expires, has said that the tolls on the road will be comparable to other nearby highways.

The new road should lighten up some of the load on the A4, the main thoroughfare across the north of the country. It is heavily used by trucks from dozens of European countries and traffic frequently snarls, especially around the Venice suburb of Mestre — where trucks bound for the nearby port sometimes line up on the freeway for miles.

A bypass around Mestre is currently under construction and is supposed to open next year. But traveling on the A4 from Vicenza to Aviano would still involve heading east past Venice to Portogruaro, then going back northwest on the A28. The new route would form a straighter line.

Valentina Lehman provided translation for this report.


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