This bridge has inspired every conceivable adjective that describes big and impressive. And it is certainly both. I finally got to see the tallest cable-stayed bridge in the world last week, on my way down to the Camargue with a friend. For such a majestic structure, there is something almost ethereal about it.
The bridge carries the A75 motorway over the deep gorges of the River Tarn near Millau in Aveyron. Before its construction, that bit of A75 didn’t exist. The link road snaked over the hills, down into the town of Millau and back up again. Eye-wateringly long traffic jams built up in the summer. We know; we were stuck in one in the 1990s on holiday and witnessed the eruptions of bad humour it caused.
Conceived in 1987, the bridge finally opened in December 2004. Designed by French engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Foster, it took three years to build, starting in December 2001. We saw it under construction on our way home from Corsica in 2003. It consisted then of several gigantic pillars and part of the deck, curtailed in mid-air like a sort of space-age Pont d’Avignon.
I won’t list reams of facts about it, which are legion. You can get them from the official website anyway or simply by Googling ‘Viaduc de Millau’ or ‘Millau Bridge’. Instead, here are a few key points:
- Length: 2,460 metres
- Max height: 343 metres, taller than the Eiffel Tower, with which it is often compared as an engineering feat.
- Height of the tallest pier: 245 metres
- Weight of the steel deck: 36,000 tonnes – five Eiffel Towers’-worth
- Cost of construction: 400 million euros
- Structural guarantee: 120 years – I don’t need to worry too much, then.
My friend and I stopped at the service area just before the bridge, where you get a reasonable prospect from a specially-constructed viewpoint. It was very windy up there, which I suppose explains the 110 kph speed limit on the bridge (normally 130 kph on French motorways). If you bash on over the viaduct itself, you don’t see very much of it. The tall windbreak barriers, which are probably also anti-suicide measures, prevent you looking down into the gorge. And you don’t get a sense of the height or extent of the bridge when you’re on it.
For such a stupendous structure, it looks incredibly graceful and delicate. The hyper-modern bridge merges with the ancient landscape surprisingly well. It must be an impressive sight emerging from the mist on an autumn morning.
The best shots of the bridge are no doubt from low down looking upwards and from either east or west. So I will have to go back sometime and find a spot down there for some really good pictures. In the meantime, the Camargue beckoned (more of that anon) so we paid our 7€ toll and sped southwards. The rest of the A75 is toll-free but I suppose they will be paying for the bridge for some time.
Copyright © 2013 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved