The Millau Viaduct is a cable-stayed road-bridge that spans the valley of the river Tarn near Millau in southern France. Designed by the French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Foster, it is the tallest bridge in the world with one mast’s summit at 343.0 meters above the base of the structure.
The bridge took only three years to build, and was opened in December 2004 to close the “missing link” on the A75 auto route that connects Paris in the north to Perpignan in the south. It is also the 12th highest bridge in the world, with a 270 meters drop from the bridge road to the valley below. The roadway over the Millau Bridge is 2.46 kilometers long, and weighs about 36,000 tons.
There is a large motorway rest area, offering spectacular views of the viaduct, as well as a visitor center with information on the bridge and its building. For the best photo opportunities, arrive at the bridge shortly after sunrise in the autumn, when the bridge frequently floats above the overnight mists that have formed in the valley below.
There are only two bridges in the world with a higher deck, the Baluarte Bridge in Mexico, which is much shorter (a single central span of 520 meters), and the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado, United States, with a deck at 321 m (1,050 ft.); but the latter is not open to traffic under normal circumstances.
The bridge’s construction cost up to €394 million, with a toll plaza 6 km north of the viaduct costing an additional €20 million. The builders, Eiffage, financed the construction in return for a concession to collect the tolls for 75 years, until 2080. However, if the concession is very profitable, the French government can assume control of the bridge in 2044.
The project required about 127,000 cubic meters of concrete, 19,000 tons of steel for the reinforced concrete and 5,000 tons of pre-stressed steel for the cables and shrouds.
The bridge was opened by President Jacques Chirac. In his speech he praised the design saying that it was a ‘monument to French engineering genius’ and ‘a miracle of equilibrium’.
Location: Millau, France
Tel.: +33 5 65 60 02 42
Nearby sights: La Couvertoirade, Montpellier-le-Vieux, Museum of Millau
Nearby hotels: Gite des Grands Causses, Millau Hotel Club, Hotel Restaurant Chateau de Creissels