Most people call it the Salerno-Reggio Calabria. However, we should point out that the official name is the A2 motorway (and has been since 2017 when it replaced the A3 motorway). It is also known by a rather popular and more evocative nickname: the Mediterranean Motorway (Autostrada del Mediterraneo). This motorway linking Salerno and Reggio Calabria, and passing via cities such as Cosenza and Vibo Valentia, took a very long time to complete. The renovation works are now completely finished, however, and the Salerno-Reggio Calabria has become a high quality major motorway, that need fear comparison with few if any other motorways in Italy, even the toll roads. Indeed, it should be emphasized that the A3 motorway remains toll-free today. But the story of the development of the Mediterranean Motorway is far from complete: the Salerno-Reggio Calabria is to become the first smart road in Italy, and probably also the first such road in the whole of Europe.
A brief history of the Salerno-Reggio Calabria highway
The idea of the construction of a Tyrrhenian motorway that could link Livorno, Civitavecchia, Salerno and Reggio Calabria was already being posited back in the 1930s. However, it was not until 24 July 1961, with the passing of the Zaccagni Law, that the construction and management of a motorway between Salerno and Reggio Calabria was finally assigned to the Italian motorway company ANAS. Right from the start, it was planned as an open, toll-free major road, with two lanes for each carriageway. The estimated cost at that time was 180 billion lire. The preliminary project was entrusted to Salvatore Ruiz and, after some years of discussion about the various possible routes, it was decided to adopt the interior route away from the coast, running through the Apennine mountains.
Various stretches of the Salerno Reggio Calabria highway were opened at different times, until it was eventually fully opened in 1974: some of the most notable engineering works include the Italia Viaduct over the River Lao, at that time the highest viaduct in Europe, and the Sfalassà Viaduct, whose steel span frame stretches for almost 900 metres.
Over twenty years later, towards the end of the 1990s, modernization work began on the road, with the construction of a third lane for the first 53 kilometres and the implementation of safety measures for the remaining stretch of the road, including the construction of new tunnels and demolition of bridges. It should be pointed out that all this took place without closing the road to traffic. The difficulties caused by the natural obstacles to be overcome, as well as several bankruptcies among the contractors, and difficulties in assigning the necessary economic resources all led to significant delays in the work. The last major roadworks site was finally closed in 2016, marking the end of the works on the Salerno-Reggio Calabria.
The Salerno-Reggio Calabria today
Today, the Salerno-Reggio Calabria is preparing to become a model of efficiency at a national and international level. The A2 motorway has already changed its appearance, as well as its name, after the modernization and upgrading work: the elimination of excessive inclines, smoothing of bends and other interventions have made the Mediterranean Motorway safer and more pleasant. And although it is preparing to tackle an important technological leap forward, the fact is that the A2 already stands out from other roads from this point of view. As engineer Francesco Caporaso, head of the department responsible for the road, explained to the Italian News Agency (AGI): “The control room guarantees 24-hour monitoring 365 days a year. Through an extensive network of over 1000 cameras it is possible to respond promptly to any situation that may arise, guaranteeing safety standards for road users, and coordinating the support services provided by the motorway police and other bodies institutionally involved in managing these events.”
The first smart road
However, as we said earlier, one of the main focuses of attention is the planned evolution of the Salerno-Reggio Calabria. As a result of the 21 million euros supplied by the National Operational Programme on Infrastructure and Networks 2014-2020, the 442 kilometres of road between Campania and Calabria will become a “smart” road. It will be the first smart road in Italy, and, if all the cabling work is carried out according to schedule, it will also be the first smart road in Europe. So over the next few years, the A2 motorway will be able to count on an intelligent system that will be able to provide all users with a broad range of added value information, aimed at improving driver comfort, increasing safety and making journeys faster, based on the different road conditions.
The innovative services offered by the smart road
The term ‘smart’ in the label smart road stands for Safe, Multimedia, Open (Aperto), Renewable and Technological. Specifically, drivers will be able to get information in real time through a dedicated app regarding alternative routes, weather conditions, accidents and hazards. To guarantee this service, Wi-Fi systems will be installed all along the motorway. But that’s not all. These works will also allow the motorway between Salerno and Reggio Calabria to become the first in Italy to experiment with self-driving cars, thanks to a network that is ready to support intelligent vehicles capable of using both assisted driving and autonomous driving.
An intelligent, futuristic and sustainable motorway
Keeping all these technological services running will obviously entail a significant cost in terms of energy. From this point of view it was decided to make the A2 environmentally sustainable, with renewable energy plants to be constructed along the motorway itself. More specifically, these are plants that will produce electricity starting with photovoltaic panels and wind turbines. To turn this plan into reality, Anas is to provide new cabling work at a cost of about 36.7 million euros.