Italy has come up with a drastic solution for dealing with the pothole-ridden roads of Rome – bring in the army.
The radical new measure has been put forward by Francesco Silvestri, an MP from the Five Star Movement, which makes up one half of Italy’s populist government along with the hard-Right League party.
Under the proposal, the army would be given the task of repairing around 125 miles of road in and around the capital, with a budget of €240 million.
“We’ll bring the technology of the engineering corps to the roads of Rome, to the benefit of Romans,” said Mr Silvestri. “It will be a revolution for the city.”
Virginia Raggi, the much-maligned mayor and a member of the Five Star Movement, who has been criticised for failing to tackle the city’s problems, hailed the proposal as “a great victory for Rome”.
The proposal will be discussed by parliament, but the fact that drafting in soldiers is being contemplated is a measure of how bad Rome’s roads are.
Deep potholes and long stretches of bumpy, degraded road surface provide a dangerous obstacle course for motorists and motorcyclists, with the latter particularly vulnerable to coming a cropper. Winter weather only makes the cracks and craters worse.
Exasperated by the failure of the city council to tackle the problem, Romans have taken to circling the worst potholes with yellow or orange spray paint.
When roads are repaired by private contractors, the work is often slapdash – along one road, repairers recently laid fresh bitumen over thick swards of pine needles, piles of leaves and rubbish, with the result that the surface began to crumble almost immediately.
But the proposal has already run into opposition. General Vincenzo Camporini, a former chief of the defence force, said filling in potholes had nothing to do with the army’s mission and was beneath its dignity.
Its first priority was to defend the country, followed by a duty to help in emergency situations and natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes.
Deploying the army as “free manual labour” was unacceptable, he said.
Luca Marco Comellini, the head of a union representing the army, was also deeply unhappy with the idea.
“I’ll suggest an alternative – that MPs should go and fill in Rome’s potholes, given that they seem to think it is such noble work,” he said.
The job of the engineering corps was to build bridges and roads in conflict and emergency situations, not to act as “a substitute roads authority”.
Elisabetta Trenta, the defence minister and also a Five Star politician, said the army would be used to repair roads where the accident rate was particularly dire.
“The military will intervene in emergency situations where the mortality rate is very high,” she said.
Opposition MPs said that drafting in the military was an admission of failure by the Five Star administration of Rome.
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