The demolition of the remains of Genoa's Morandi Bridge, whose collapse last year claimed 43 lives, is a moment of redemption for the city and for Italy, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Friday.
Conte made his televised comments moments before the dismantling of what is left of the once-busy 1960s viaduct began in earnest.
"The demolition of the bridge is an important moment -- it is the redemption of Genoa (and) of Italy," said Conte.
"We can be certain that the (new) bridge will be standing by the end of the year," the prime minister said, adding that it will be inaugurated sometime in 2020.
Also present was Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, who confirmed the timetable for the bridge's demolition and reconstruction, and said that the operation "will create positive forward momentum for the whole of Italy."
The machinery being used in the Morandi Bridge demolition includes a system of hydraulic jacks similar to that used to lift and rotate the 60,000-ton wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise ship after it crashed into an island off Tuscany in January 2012, according to RAI News 24 public broadcaster.
That engineering feat, which was successfully completed in September 2013, was the first of its kind, and earned Italy praise around the world at the time.
The Morandi Bridge will be dismantled in pieces and "in a progressive way, causing no shocks to the surroundings," civil engineer and demolition project designer Alberto Iacomussi told RAI News 24 in an interview at the site on Friday.
The job has been entrusted to a five-company consortium and will cost 19 million euros (21.5 million U.S. dollars), according to Genoa Mayor Marco Bucci.
"This is a very important, very symbolic day," said Bucci. "We've already carted away 3,000 tons of debris, and now we're getting ready to demolish another 800 tons of material," he added in televised comments.
The Morandi Bridge was a vital piece of infrastructure built in the 1960s that linked Genoa's busy industrial port with the rest of the city, the region and Europe. It fell apart on a busy day in mid-August, sending dozens of men, women and children hurtling to their deaths.
Over 200 families were displaced from their homes below the bridge and hundreds of local businesses were devastated, causing direct and indirect damages worth 422 million euros in the wake of the collapse, the city of Genoa has said.
Rebuilding the bridge is an economic priority, because its absence is costing Genoa and Italy's wealthy industrial northwest 784 million euros a year in lost gross domestic product (GDP), according to a report published by business association Confindustria.
The new steel bridge will be upheld by concrete piles and will cost 202 million euros, according to Bucci. (1 euro = 1.13 U.S. dollars)