Millau Viaduct spans the River Tan near the town of Millau in the south of France. This mighty construction is the tallest bridge in the world and measures an impressive 343 metres at the summit of its tallest mast. The bridge also boasts a height of 270 metres from the road below to the ground deck. The bridge is estimated to have a lifespan of 120 years, which would make it one of the longest lasting bridges of all time if the estimation proves to be correct.
Design of the Millau Viaduct
In 1991 the decision was made to create a bridge to span the Tan River Valley, making it easier for motorists to travel between the south of France and Spain. The design was a collaboration between British architect Norman Foster and renowned French engineer Michael Virlogeux. The French government originally consulted a number of structural engineers and architects, but the problem of how to make the bridge high enough to span the valley proved to be extremely tough to solve. Public interested was sought in order to solve the issue and in 1996 Sogelerg consortium proposed the cable-stayed design that was ultimately successful.
Opening of the Bridge
The Millau Viaduct cost around 400 million Euros to complete. In addition, the toll plaza that is located just under four miles to the north of the viaduct cost around 20 million Euros to complete. The project was financed by building company Eiffage in return for the contract to collect the tolls generated from motorists crossing the viaduct for a total of 75 years. 127,000 cubic metres of concrete, 19,000 tonnes of steel to use in the reinforced concrete and 5,000 tonnes of pre-stressed steel used in the cables and shrouds were used to create the viaduct. An elaborate inauguration was held on December 14th 2004 and the viaduct was open to traffic just two days later.
Acclaim for the Millau Viaduct
This mighty viaduct has received a number of prestigious awards for its design over the years including the Outstanding Structure Award, which was bestowed by the Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering in 2006. Despite the fact that the viaduct received a certain amount of criticism when it was in its construction phase, it is generally believed to be among the greatest engineering achievements of all time.
The Millau Viaduct has considerably reduced congestion on the neighbouring roads, especially during the summer months when large numbers of holidaymakers make the journey between France and Spain. Despite the high costs involved in its construction, it can clearly be seen that this project was a success.