SS36: The Most Strategic ‘No-Toll’ Road Corridor of Italy

SS36: The Most Strategic ‘No-Toll’ Road Corridor of Italy

“Quel ramo del lago di Como, che volge a mezzogiorno…”

This is the beginning of Alessandro Manzoni’s well-known novel “I Promessi Sposi” (The Betrothed), in which the writer paints a stunning image of Lecco and its surrounding area with his words. Definitively written between 1840 and 1842, it is a journey through art, history, and literature from Milan to the lakeside city of Lecco. The book is considered one of the pillars of Italian culture.

Even in present-day, Milan and Lecco still maintain this strong connection, enhanced by daily commuters that travel between the cities every day. In addition to commuters, there are those who travel between the two cities on the weekend, to escape the bustle of the city and spend a few days of relaxation or adventure in the natural Lecco landscape.

General overview (GIS analysis and internal database). Source: Systematica
Identification of critical points (GIS analysis and internal database). Source: Systematica

Because of these travelers, the road connecting the two urban polarities is a fundamental element of these multivariate systems. The SS36 road corridor, named “del Lago di Como e dello Spluga”, starts from Milan and runs through the Brianza region to the north of Lecco, reaching the “Passo dello Spluga”, which is at the Switzerland border. Covering a length of 150km, the road acts as the primary artery from Milan to Lecco, a secondary connection from Lecco to Colico and, a mountain route in the last stretch of road towards Switzerland.

The strategic role of the SS36 is also confirmed by the amount of traffic along the route making it the second busiest road of the entire Lombardia Region, just after the A4 “Torino – Venezia” motorway. ANAS, the National Autonomous Roads Corporation, an Italian government-owned company responsible for the construction and maintenance of Italian motorways and state highways under the control of the Italian Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, spends millions of euros of public money every year for the maintenance and repair of its infrastructural assets.

Hydrological hazard (GIS analysis and internal database). Source: Systematica
Summary of environmental criticalities (GIS analysis and internal database). Source: Systematica

In 2016, ANAS decided to adopt a different approach to tackle the issues related to road management, moving from an event-based approach to a more structured planning and prevention methodology. Systematica was therefore appointed to support the team and develop a technical and economic feasibility study as part of the Extraordinary Plan for Improvement and Requalification of SS36.

The goal of the project was to define a prioritized list of refurbishment projects and maintenance interventions to be financed by the Italian Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport. It aimed to improve the overall level of safety and security of the road corridor, while at the same time, ensuring an optimal level of service and minimizing the inconveniences and circulation interruptions caused by those interventions.

Systematica carried out a large survey campaign in order to verify and evaluate all the issues and criticalities of the road, supported by ANAS’s operative team that, thanks to their knowledge of the entire route, provided valid assistance to the interventions’ definition. In order to support an economic evaluation from the social perspective – aimed at estimating the economic benefits as result of the interventions – Systematica updated and utilized the Lombardy Region Traffic Model, to test and compare the projected situation with the actual one using indicators related to the amount of traffic, time saved, and safety and security parameters. These indicators support the definition of the interventions and their priorities and identify the reference year in which it would be possible to reach the balance between the costs of the road interventions and the benefits to users and surrounding areas.

Hydraulic basins (GIS analysis and internal database). Source: Systematica
Territorial and environmental constraints (GIS analysis and internal database). Source: Systematica