As investigations continue into the cause of last month's Polcevera viaduct collapse, with consequences of possible criminal liability, the Italian government has taken steps to replace the structure in Genoa and safeguard infrastructure around the country.

The viaduct, also known as the Morandi bridge, collapsed on August 14, causing 43 deaths. Failure of one of the large concrete-covered stay cables on the multi-span crossing is widely believed to have triggered collapse of two spans of the 51-year-old structure. Operator Autostrade per l’Italia S.p.A., had ordered major reinforcement work on the collapsed section.

On Sept. 18, high-level officials at a meeting in Genoa chaired by Italy’s Prime Minster Giuseppe Conte discussed details of the viaduct’s reconstruction plans and other matters covered by an emergency decree. A key goal is to build “the most beautiful and safest bridge ever and return it to Genoa,” according to Conte.

Architect Renzo Piano (left) reviews proposed design for new span in Genoa. Photo: Shunji Ishida

An offer by Genoa-born architect Renzo Piano to design a new bridge has been supported by Giovanni Toti, President of the surrounding Liguria region. Calling the proposed bridge “safe and easy to maintain,” Piano said it will have 22 spans of 50 m, and 43 lanterns to commemorate those killed in the collapse.

Toti has called on Autostrade to provide the site and pay for the construction to be led by state-controlled ship builder Fincantieri, supported by companies with relevant experience.

Danilo Toninelli, minister of infrastructure and transportation, has blamed the privately-owned Autostrade for the collapse and threatened it with huge fines and termination of its operating contract.

Autostrade claims to have spent nearly 1,000 days working on the bridge in 2015-2018, and says it invested in maintenance between 2000 and 2017 on its overall network $230 million more than contractually required. The Genoa public prosecutor started investigating several Autostrade officials, among others, earlier this month.

The emergency decree, adopted on Sept. 13 by the Council of Ministers, includes the creation of an Extraordinary Commissioner to oversee the viaduct’s reconstruction. It also provides for the establishment of national a surveillance agency, responsible for safety of highways. And it allows for extra resources for the Ministry of Infrastructures and Transport to monitor infrastructure safety.