France Opens World’s Tallest Bridge

The world’s tallest bridge, Le Viaduc de Millau, has opened in southern France. It was built to relieve congestion and four hour delays on a heavily traveled section of highway that previously passed through the small, picturesque village of Millau in the Massif Central Mountains, northwest of Marseilles.

Designed by renowned British architect Sir Norman Foster, the cable-stay bridge utilizes bifurcated piers. The split design of the piers accommodates the large expansion and contraction which the steel and concrete roadway experiences as the temperature changes. The piers open and close like gigantic springs. The piers are monstrous in scale.

Next to the pier design, perhaps the most interesting feature of the engineering and construction of the bridge is the way the road and cable-stays were placed. The road and cable-stay assemblies were prefabricated on opposite sides of the valley and slid out onto the piers. The massive hydraulic lift and ram system used to do that was designed and operated by the American company Enerpac.

The French, who are famous for their dislike of modern utilitarian architecture, especially (but not limited to) skyscrapers, are having a mixed reaction to the bridge. The residents and businessmen of Millau seem rather happy with the bridge though. They’re relieved, for instance, to finally have those legendary traffic jams removed from their village and are hoping the now famous bridge will bring money spending tourists into the area. Millau can now be a place to stop and eat, rather than just pass through. Others, however, consider the bridge a gigantic eyesore on the countryside.

The bridge cost $523 million to build. All of the money invested was privately raised in exchange for the right to charge tolls. Tolls will vary from $6.50 in winter to $8.60 in summer. Trucks will pay $32.24 all year.

According to the AP, during the dedication ceremonies, which included a flyover of air force jets and fireworks, President Jacques Chirac commented:

“This exceptional opening will go down in industrial and technological history,” Chirac said, praising the designers and builders for creating “a prodigy of art and architecture…a new emblem of French civil engineering.”

The bridge will serve as a symbol of “a modern and conquering France.”


Great Photo
Image Gallery Select ‘Diaporama’ for a slide show.
Skyscraper City Be sure to check out the great construction photos on pages 4 & 5 of the thread.
Enerpac Hydraulic road sliding and placement. (Navigate from the menu on the left. Lots of info and photos.)
Viaduc de Millau Three active panoramas.
Active Panoramic Image Bridge and surrounding valley.