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Author Topic: Autostrade of Italy  (Read 22410 times)

Chris

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Autostrade of Italy
« on: September 11, 2010, 06:14:06 AM »

The Italian motorway / freeway system is made up of the Autostrada (plural: Autostrade). The network is generally around 6,500 km / 4,000 miles long and has a subsystem of Superstrada (plural: Superstrade), which are often built to expressway standards that are close to freeway standards.



History
The first Italian Autostrada opened in 1924, known as the "Autostrada dei Laghi" (motorway of the lakes) in the North of Italy. It has present-day numbers A8 and A9. Although it was the earliest Autostrada, it didn't feature more than 2 undivided lanes, but it had limited access and was a toll road. Back in those days, only 85,000 vehicles were circulating on the Italian road network.

Construction speed picked up in the 1920's and 1930's with hundreds of miles of new Autostrada. It remains a point of discussion which Autostrada was the first to feature at least 4 lanes and a divided roadway. Naturally, construction was halted during the Second World War, and didn't continue until the late 1950's, and picked up speed in the 1960's. By 1975, most of the present-day Autostrada network was completed.

However, the 1975 "Buscalossi act" prohibited any new Autostrada. Only those under construction and with advanced plans could proceed. This law was abolished by Berlusconi in 2001. Hence, between approximately 1978 and around 2002, nearly no new Autostrada was completed, which was mainly a problem in the lesser developed areas of Italy, such as Tuscany, Umbria, Puglia, Sicily and Sardinia.

Today
The Italian Autostrada network is modern, and with a few exceptions, well designed. The mountainous areas feature an extraordinary amount of tunnels, unlike anything you see in the United States, or most of Europe for that matter. It's not uncommon to have a 100 miles of Autostrada that are over 60 - 70% underground.

Many Autostrade feature 2x3 or 2x4 lanes. The network is designed for speed, and the speed limit is 80 miles per hour, although there is legislation (highway code) to increase the speed limit to 95 miles per hour on certain sections, but it hasn't been implemented yet. Traffic volumes are high around cities and between cities in the north of the country. Traffic is lighter in central and southern Italy, which is less developed and more sparsely populated.

There are a couple of major projects to widen and realign existing Autostrade, for example the A1 between Bologna and Florence, and a very long section of A3 between Salerno and Reggio Calabria in southern Italy. The A3 features some of the tallest viaducts in Europe, and runs through a difficult mountainous area. Besides these projects, many Autostrade have been widened, or will be widened to six lanes for hundreds of kilometers in a row.

Signage
The Italian signage is considered one of the worst, or the worst in Europe by many European road enthusiasts. Italy uses green signs with white capitalized letters on motorways and blue signs on non-motorways. An overload of destinations are present in cities. It's not uncommon to find a directional sign with 10 or 15 local destinations. Distance tableaux are largely absent, and road numbers are small (often too small). There is very little consistency.

I will show some images of Italian signage in the next post.

Chris

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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2010, 06:24:58 AM »

Exit signage

An example of exit signage in Italy, exit Meina on Autostrada A26 in the foothills of the Alps.

1. Advance notice. Usually at 700 or 1000 m, depending on tunnels or other exits. Note nearly all Italian exits are designed at 40 km/h only!

ch 782 by Chriszwolle, on Flickr

2. Additional destinations reached via this "uscita" (exit). Lago d'Orta means "Lake Orta", a major tourist destination.

ch 783 by Chriszwolle, on Flickr

3. At the exit itself. A very basic sign, only the E-number is signed while this road is mainly known as A26. The arrows don't match with the number of lanes, an inconsistency found all over Italy.

ch 784 by Chriszwolle, on Flickr

4. Distance signs after the exit are generally absent.

ch 785 by Chriszwolle, on Flickr

Chris

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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2010, 06:31:33 AM »

Toll station

Most Italian Autostrade are toll roads, except some routes in the southern part of the country, and urban Autostrade.

1. Alt Stazione literally means "stop station".

ch 786 by Chriszwolle, on Flickr

2. Telepass is an electronic toll system, use right lane.

ch 787 by Chriszwolle, on Flickr

3. Additional signage indicating to slow down.

ch 788 by Chriszwolle, on Flickr

4. A "biglietto" means "ticket". Most Italian Autostrade are a closed toll system with tickets. Note the distance sign to the left, these are the only distance signs you'll see on Italian motorways.

ch 789 by Chriszwolle, on Flickr

5. This is a rather small barrier, where you only have to get a ticket. You'll pay at your exit.

ch 790 by Chriszwolle, on Flickr

Since large areas of Italy form a closed toll system, it is possible to drive much more miles than you're paying for. For example, this route will be treated like you've driven this route.

The Italian tolls are generally between € 0.05 to € 0.08 per kilometer, with some mountainous motorways being slightly more expensive. The most expensive is A32 from Turin to the west at € 0.15 per kilometer. Generally speaking, Italy's motorways are cheaper than in France or Spain.

Chris

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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2010, 06:39:15 AM »

freeway interchange

Italy has an extensive amount of freeway-to-freeway interchanges, especially in the north of the country. They are often creatively designed, and this one must be the craziest of them all.

1. The road widens to 3 lanes.

ch 812 by Chriszwolle, on Flickr

2. An advance sign indicating destinations to be reached. This layout is rather similar to the Swiss interchange signage. Notice the unreadable road numbers.

ch 813 by Chriszwolle, on Flickr

3. A more basic sign, not all destinations are repeated.

ch 814 by Chriszwolle, on Flickr

4. Downward arrows at the divergence point. Notice this interchange does not has a separate C/D lane, but a third lane is simply added.

ch 815 by Chriszwolle, on Flickr

5. Since two Autostrade cross here, there are also two exits.

ch 816 by Chriszwolle, on Flickr

6. Font size does not tend to be standardized, they just pick the largest that fits on a sign.  :pan:

ch 817 by Chriszwolle, on Flickr

7. The third lane continues here as a regular lane.

ch 818 by Chriszwolle, on Flickr

8. Minimum speeds on the lanes. Trucks are not allowed in the leftmost lane.

ch 819 by Chriszwolle, on Flickr

9. This is what I call driving! Notice the dots on the side, these are to indicate a safe following distance during fog. The whole Po valley is susceptible to dense fog with visibility less than 150 feet.

ch 820 by Chriszwolle, on Flickr

Alps

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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2010, 10:09:14 AM »

freeway interchange

Italy has an extensive amount of freeway-to-freeway interchanges, especially in the north of the country. They are often creatively designed, and this one must be the craziest of them all.
Eh, just your typical interior cloverleaf.

BTW I also have assorted photos of Italian autostrada (though usually more focused on signs).

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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2010, 02:49:04 PM »

Interesting pictures.

http://www.alpsroads.net/roads/it/a8/

Notice the use of Gravellona Toce. It is a small town with a population of just over 7,500. It happens to be the northern terminus of A26. Domodossola would be a much better destination.

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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2010, 02:53:06 PM »

For example SS36 is a dual carriageway superstrada (SS means Strada Statali (state road), not Superstrada), has 21 tunnels over a distance of 25 miles / 40 kilometers. I estimate between 80 and 90% of the mileage is underground.

J N Winkler

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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2010, 06:00:38 AM »

The first Italian Autostrada opened in 1924, known as the "Autostrada dei Laghi" (motorway of the lakes) in the North of Italy. It has present-day numbers A8 and A9. Although it was the earliest Autostrada, it didn't feature more than 2 undivided lanes, but it had limited access and was a toll road. Back in those days, only 85,000 vehicles were circulating on the Italian road network.

In actuality the Milan-Lakes autostrade consisted of a main stretch, from Milan to Varese, and two spurs, one called Breccia (running from Lainate to Como) and the other called Vergiate (running from Gallarate to Sesto Calende).  Milan-Varese opened on 21 September 1924, while Breccia opened on 28 June 1925 and Vergiate opened on 3 September 1925.  The total length constructed was 84.5 km (49 km for Milan-Varese, 24 km for Breccia, 11 km for Vergiate).  Milan-Varese had three lanes (paved width 11 m, fence-to-fence width 14 m), while Breccia and Vergiate had two lanes each (paved width 8 m, fence-to-fence width 11 m).

Most of the early autostrade were built as toll roads with concessions granted by the Italian state.  The typical form of contract provided for reversion after fifty years with conditional subsidy from the state to the autostrada company to cover operating deficits.  I believe the sole exception was the Autocamionale between Genoa and Serravalle Scrivia, which was built directly by the Italian state.

Quote
Construction speed picked up in the 1920's and 1930's with hundreds of miles of new Autostrada. It remains a point of discussion which Autostrada was the first to feature at least 4 lanes and a divided roadway.

Surely it is agreed that there were no dual-carriageway autostrade built before the war.

Net autostrada construction before World War II was approximately 488 km.  This includes edge cases like the Autocamionale, which was unusual in that it was for trucks only and did not support high speeds, but excludes others like the Rome-Ostia ceremonial road, which is occasionally described as an autostrada but not counted as such by Kaftan, Strohkark, or me.  (A problem in investigating early motorways is that the term motor road and its equivalent in other languages does not necessarily imply full control of access and design for high-speed through traffic--in certain contexts, particularly colonial development, it can mean simply any road which is paved to handle car traffic.)

BTW, an inspection visit to the Rome-Ostia road was the occasion of the quote from Puricelli (builder of the Milan-Lakes autostrade) which I use as a signature line in this forum.

Quote
Naturally, construction was halted during the Second World War, and didn't continue until the late 1950's, and picked up speed in the 1960's.

My guess would be that the first postwar autostrada, and also the first dual-carriageway autostrada, was the Autostrada del Sole running from Milan to Naples.  I don't think the original autostrade began to be upgraded to dual carriageway until well into the 1960's.  For example, Strade e Traffico has a picture from the early 1960's showing traffic queued up (in four lanes) on the approach to an exit toll station on the Milan-Lakes autostrade; at the time it was still single-carriageway.

The key moment in postwar autostrada construction seems to have been consideration of a multiyear autostrada construction program by the Italian parliament in 1955.

Quote
The Italian signage is considered one of the worst, or the worst in Europe by many European road enthusiasts. Italy uses green signs with white capitalized letters on motorways and blue signs on non-motorways. An overload of destinations are present in cities. It's not uncommon to find a directional sign with 10 or 15 local destinations. Distance tableaux are largely absent, and road numbers are small (often too small). There is very little consistency.

The signing guidelines are not online and have to be obtained by post (a friend of mine got his copy from Autostrade SpA, which is responsible for the majority of the autostrada mileage in Italy, including the Autostrada del Sole).  It is possible to download construction plans for small projects on Italian autostrade but in my experience the signing plans have been sparse and never pattern-accurate.
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Chris

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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2010, 06:14:14 AM »

Quote
Surely it is agreed that there were no dual-carriageway autostrade built before the war.

None at all? That surprises me, I would've guessed they copied some dual carriageway designs from the late 1930's Reichsautobahnen in Germany.

Quote
I don't think the original autostrade began to be upgraded to dual carriageway until well into the 1960's.

So I've read. Many pre-war Autostrade weren't doubled until the 1960's, for example A6 from Turin to Savona.

Another interesting feature in Italy is that tunnels often have a 130 km/h speed limit. It is often reduced to 100 or even 80 km/h in most other European countries.

J N Winkler

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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2010, 06:47:06 AM »

Quote
Surely it is agreed that there were no dual-carriageway autostrade built before the war.

None at all? That surprises me, I would've guessed they copied some dual carriageway designs from the late 1930's Reichsautobahnen in Germany.

Nope.  None at all.  Part of the reason has to do with the slowdown in autostrada construction in the early 1930's, when the autostrade began to feel significant traffic competition from the strade statali network (created 1928 and put under the administration of an autonomous highway agency, which had a strong political mandate to make significant improvements in running surfaces).  Padua-Venice, built 1933, was the last private autostrada.  The Autocamionale came later, in 1935, but was also single-carriageway only.

The real inflexion point for dual-carriageway construction, I think, was around 1930.  Before 1930 it is hard to find serious motorway proposals which were dual-carriageway--for example, London-Brighton (1928-29) was single-carriageway in spite of a brief flirtation with dual-carriageway construction, the original HAFRABA proposal (1927) was single-carriageway, the Cologne-Bonn Autostrasse (finished 1932, but started 1928) was also single-carriageway, and even the Umgebungstrasse Opladen (opened after the start of RAB construction, IIRC) was also single-carriageway.  After 1930, proposals began to be updated to incorporate dual carriageways.  For example, the HAFRABA updated proposal (1931) called for dual carriageways.  Design guidance (notably Memorandum 336, issued 1930 in Britain) was also beginning to call for dual carriageway construction for new major roads on safety grounds alone, and by 1935 Britain also had a 400 VPH peak-hour warrant.

But these developments didn't make their way down to southern Europe, I think partly because of the reliance on private finance not just in Italy but also in Spain (motorway law in 1928, several proposals, none built, all of the ones I have seen personally or found described in Rodriguez Lázaro's book calling for single carriageway only, occasionally with provision of service drives--specifications often interior to those of the Italian autostrade).  Aside from the problem of traffic competition, which existed in Spain too because of the Circuito de Firmes Especiales, there is also a consideration in that depression and high unemployment tended to restrain growth in automobile ownership between the wars, and in Italy at least the low-hanging fruit tended to be picked first--later autostrade schemes were more on the financial margins than the earlier ones.

Quote
Another interesting feature in Italy is that tunnels often have a 130 km/h speed limit. It is often reduced to 100 or even 80 km/h in most other European countries.

The Italians and Spanish have historically tunnelled with abandon, and been less aggressive in outfitting their tunnels with command-and-control infrastructure than North Americans and northern Europeans.  Tunnel safety experts have for years noted a rather marked north-south divide in this respect in Europe.  But there are now strict tunnel safety standards (EU-mandated, I think) and I am waiting to see if that has an effect on the viability of tunnel construction in Spain.  Of course I know I will have to be patient because road construction in general has more or less shut down in Spain because of the financial crisis.
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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2014, 08:17:29 PM »

Our own mtantillo has come back from Sicily with evidence of exit numbering around Messina. Italy, as some might know, has only named interchanges, not numbered - until now. Google is unhelpful. Anyone have more info?

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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2014, 11:07:48 AM »

Some ring roads  / bypasses have exit numbering in Italy. But most autostrade do not have exit numbers.

Milan:

ch 905 by Chriszwolle, on Flickr


ch 913 by Chriszwolle, on Flickr

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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2014, 02:59:32 PM »

The GRA (Grande Raccordo Anulare) circumferential highway around Rome has exit numbers. It was the only autostrade with exit numbers that I encountered on my recent trip.
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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #13 on: July 21, 2014, 08:54:43 PM »

My family being from Italy/Sicily, I am in possession of  1970's era AGIP mini-atlas covering the Autostrade system; among its highlightsthat I can recall:
1) The A2 still existed, from the G.R.A. in Rome to Naples (before the bypass of the G.R.A. effectively linked the two halves of the full A1.
2) The lower half of what is now the A12 was designated as A16, a separate route connecting Rome to Civitavecchia. 
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Plutonic Panda

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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #14 on: April 06, 2023, 04:06:14 PM »

Messina Strait bridge study complete

Quote
The study has been completed for the proposed Messina Strait bridge project in Italy. This in-depth study has been carried out by Italy's Ministry of Public Works (MIT).

Construction of the 3.7km bridge will come with an estimated pricetag of €10 billion. A suspension bridge will be used as this will best cope with the earthquakes that occur in South Italy. If constructed, it will feature the longest central span of any suspension bridge ever built, so the project will face major technical challenges. The towers may have to be up to 300m high to support the structure and the strong tidal flow results in heavy scour, so these will have to be located out of the main channel, resulting in the need for the long central span.

The project is being put forward by the Italian Government and is intended to provide a much-needed boost to Italy’s economically-depressed Calabria region as well as the island of Sicily. Tourism and trade would both receive major boosts from the project.

The aim is for construction to commence in mid-2024. The proposed design features three traffic lanes in either direction as well as two rail lines, with an estimated traffic load of 6,000 vehicles/day and 200 trains/day. An important feature of the project is that it is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by replacing the current ferry service that connects Calabria and Sicily.

However, given the previous record of proposals for a bridge that have stalled, Italians are somewhat cynical about this latest proposal. Plans to bridge the Messina Strait have been discussed for 2,000 years, with a Roman Emperor first suggesting a pontoon structure and then in the 11th century, Emperor Charlemagne also proposing a stone bridge. Since the early 19th century, the pace of proposed bridge crossings has increased. And two previous proposals in the last 20 years have come to nothing.

- https://www.worldhighways.com/wh10/news/messina-strait-bridge-study-complete

Wow this will be pretty fuckin cool! 😎
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Road Hog

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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #15 on: April 06, 2023, 08:25:30 PM »

Two thoughts:

1. The signage reminds me of Mexico.

2. A VPD count of only 6,000 should take the Messina Strait bridge out of consideration right off the bat.
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Plutonic Panda

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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #16 on: April 06, 2023, 09:47:45 PM »

^^^ it’s also going to have rail and will offer better connectivity. No doubt ADTs will go up over time.
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Plutonic Panda

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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #17 on: April 07, 2023, 02:25:55 AM »

Another article on it: https://constructionreviewonline.com/construction-news/italy-revives-messina-bridge-project/amp/

I hope this happens. I’d love to drive it.
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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #18 on: April 30, 2023, 04:50:28 PM »

CNN talked about the suspension bridge project talking about the Mafia could screw it all up.  https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/italy-messina-bridge-sicily-intl/index.html
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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #19 on: May 13, 2023, 12:54:21 AM »

Sorry, I misread the story: 6K vehicles per hour, which yes would make a bridge quite viable.
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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #20 on: May 14, 2023, 05:49:42 PM »

The idea of building a bridge across the straits of Messina is literally ancient.

Do be aware that this has been studied and proposed repeatedly in the modern era and... well, don't hold your breath. It's a project that is politically expedient to continually talk about, but both very expensive and politically difficult to actually implement (for reasons including but not limited to the mafia connections with the ferries noted above). I'll believe it when I see it.
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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #21 on: May 14, 2023, 06:37:21 PM »

That is a bummer to hear. I understand that the mafia still has a presence and influence on Italy but I wouldn’t have thought that would be a reason this bridge wouldn’t be built. Hopefully it gets built.
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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #22 on: May 15, 2023, 03:14:11 AM »

The demographic structure of Italy is one of the worst in Europe. It is currently near its peak of working-age population, with the population bulge being in the 45-59 year age group and every younger age group is smaller.

Within 5-10 years, the population bulge will enter mass retirement, and the work force will enter a continuous decline. This means the Italian tax base will dwindle while expenditures on health care will increase significantly. Every country in Europe is grappling with this, but almost nowhere is it as bad as Italy.

This makes megaprojects like this more uncertain.



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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #23 on: May 16, 2023, 05:59:20 PM »

So in Italy the Gen X'ers are literally the baby boomers. But they retire so much earlier than people in the US do.
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Re: Autostrade of Italy
« Reply #24 on: May 18, 2023, 07:31:21 PM »

The demographic structure of Italy is one of the worst in Europe. It is currently near its peak of working-age population, with the population bulge being in the 45-59 year age group and every younger age group is smaller.

Within 5-10 years, the population bulge will enter mass retirement, and the work force will enter a continuous decline. This means the Italian tax base will dwindle while expenditures on health care will increase significantly. Every country in Europe is grappling with this, but almost nowhere is it as bad as Italy.

This makes megaprojects like this more uncertain.




quick build it now

 


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