Milan’s East-West Tunnel: A Visionary Idea


To tell the truth, it hasn’t been that long, in fact they started talking about it in 2006, but maybe someone forgot. We are talking about a pharaonic project that never really started and that was definitively canceled by the Pisapia junta. It is the idea of crossing Milan diagonally from Linate to Rho passing under the city several meters underground by connecting the two ring roads at opposite ends of the city in a straight line with a car tunnel.

In 2006 the mayor of Milan at the time and extraordinary commissioner for traffic Gabriele Albertini declared the “public interest” for a project put forward by a consortium led by the Torno company, which envisaged the construction of a tunnel of about 4 kilometers connecting the Milan motorways North with the area then called Garibaldi-Città della Moda (today Garibaldi Porta Nuova).

Fortunately, we will say, the project struggled to find funding and remained in the drawers of proponents for years. The only positive thing would have been to replace the viale Monte Ceneri – Serra flyover with an extension of the tunnel, providing for the demolition of the old road infrastructure with relative redevelopment of the affected area.

The Project Regained Strength

A few years later the project regained strength, when the proposal was presented again with the Mayor of Milan Letizia Moratti with the support of the Regional Council, also in view of Expo 2015. In terms of infrastructure linked to the Universal Exposition, the underground tunnel project could have a purpose.

The new proposal even provided for a new section to the east, extending the tunnel to about 13 km, so as to connect the Rho-Pero exhibition center to Linate airport. Thus the work would have served (in the intention of the proponents and provided that they had completed it in time) also for the functions of the Expo site.

The project put forward by a consortium led by Torno involved the construction, using TBMs (the famous “moles” also used for the M5 and M4) of a double-tube tunnel along the Rho-Linate route, for a length of approximately 13 km, and the construction of an artificial tunnel along the axis of viale Monte Ceneri with the demolition of the current flyover, allowing the environmental and urban redevelopment of the area to proceed. A project that seemed to be of interest to many, but which in fact failed to find funding. Also due to the concern that it would have absorbed a large part of the funding for the two planned metros, the M4 and M5.

Penetrating deeply into the subsoil, it would have crossed the city in a hypothetical route that would have seen connections on the surface to Città Studi in viale Romagna at via Botticelli/Juvara, another exit near piazza della Repubblica followed by a (rather complicated) junction with the area of Garibaldi and viale Zara. Other connections were envisaged at Ghisolfa with viale Monte Ceneri, at Musocco with a junction for the A4 and the northern motorways to finally link up with the Fiera di Rho and the state road for Magenta.

A route that would have followed in part the same as the by-pass but which would have encountered many difficulties, especially at the height of the Porta Garibaldi-Isola area, where, between the railway bypass and the underground railways, the area could already be at the limit and even junction tunnels were supposed to run under the newly constructed M5 tunnel.

The project was certainly not free from the most disparate criticisms and strong opposition from citizens’ committees and political exponents. Among all, the criticisms of numerous environmental associations, shared by the way, which also took their cue from the traffic problems that this huge work would have caused for the citizens and residents of Milan, already put to the test by the work on the subways that had already begun.

Thus the tunnel that was supposed to connect Linate to the Rho fair, although included in the PGT, from 2011 becomes a “non-priority” project. In fact, after a heated debate in the city council, it was decided to maintain in the PGT, definitively approved in February 2011, the hypothesis of an underground route from the city airport to the Rho fair that crosses the city diagonally, but the matter is declassified from forecast to proposal.

Finally, in July 2011 again, Giuliano Pisapia took office as mayor of Milan, who, having always been against the construction of this road tunnel, definitively removed it from the infrastructural works to be carried out, putting an end to the idea forever. to cross the city by underground car.

This article is originally published on