The order came as the court also approved an almost 30-million euro settlement between the companies Autostrade per l’Italia and Spea.
The bridge’s collapse killed 43 people and shed a spotlight on Italy’s decaying infrastructure – as well as the role of Autostrade (ASPI), the private motorway operator accused of failing to maintain the major viaduct.
Judge Paola Faggioni ruled that the operator, and engineering company Spea – both subsidiaries of Italian infrastructure group Atlantia, which is controlled by the Benetton family – must pay the state 29 million euros ($31.7 million).
“It’s good news, as the request to settle is like an admission of guilt,” Egle Possetti, a spokeswoman for a victims’ relatives group, told AFP.
“But it’s also sad, because it’s money that could have been spent on maintenance to prevent the collapse in the first place,” said Possetti, whose sister died along with her husband and their two children when their car plummeted 45 metres (148 feet) in August 2018.
Faggioni ruled in favour of the prosecution’s request for 59 people to stand trial, including the former head of Atlantia, Giovanni Castelluci, and officials from Spea, which was in charge of inspections on the bridge.
The list also includes several transport ministry officials.
The first hearing is scheduled for July 7th, with charges including manslaughter, negligence and wilful disaster.
In their final report on the investigation into the disaster, published last year, prosecutors highlighted “incomplete” and “inadequate” inspections, according to news reports.
They noted, for example, that the bridge piers were inspected from below, using binoculars, rather than from up close.
In a statement agreeing to the settlement with Autostrade, the prosecution said the amount “corresponds to the cost savings made by the company through the omission of maintenance that would have prevented” the disaster, according to Genoa’s Il Secolo XIX newspaper.
Autostrade has also “executed, or in any event made available, full compensation for all the damages caused to the relatives of the victims”, it said.
The Morandi highway, hailed a marvel of engineering when it opened in 1967, gave way during heavy rain.
The wealthy Benetton family came under immense pressure after the disaster to relinquish control of Autostrade, which runs almost half of Italy’s motorway network.
Atlantia agreed last year to sell its controlling stake in Autostrade to a consortium including the state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), as well as investment funds Blackstone and Macquarie.