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December 17, 2004

Millau Viaduct Opens in France

The Millau Viaduct in France, the world's tallest, opened yesterday (it's the tallest in the sense of having the highest supporting pier).

Personally I think this bridge looks funny; the freedom that cable-stayed bridges allows is mostly abused by bridge designers to produce ungainly-looking things like this. By contrast the Kochertal viaduct, which the Millau replaced as the tallest in the world, is a simple box girder and looks fine (look at this album of German bridges. See? See? Is it so hard to design a concrete bridge that looks reasonable?). The piers at Millau are 342 meters apart; the Confederation Bridge (another box girder) has them about 250 meters apart, so it might have been a stretch to not have the cable-stayed part and still keep the same number of piers.

Anyway, this is a picture of the town of Millau with the viaduct lurking over it:

Millau is in southern France, and this viaduct is a key link on the A75 road south from Paris (a discussion of different alternative routes is here; the light blue route was chosen). The French all drive south in unison in August, and evidently the old road caused huge backups getting past this point.

Here's a picture of the bridge with a rainbow, except that the bridge itself looks like it was Photoshopped (the cable support tower on the left is in the wrong place), so I assume the rainbow was faked also. Maybe this was an old artist's mockup whose origin got lost.

Posted by AdamBa at December 17, 2004 03:52 PM

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Actually the bridge in the rainbow photo isn't fake - the tower is in the wrong position because the whole LHS of the bridge - all 32K tonnes - was assembled and 'pushed' out from the landside on gigantic hydralic sliding wedges to meet in the middle.

Watched a Science channel program about it the operation the other night - one word - AMAZING!

It's a modern marvel for sure.

Posted by: Steve at December 17, 2004 09:29 PM

Amazing. So the cable supports were just bolted on to the tops of the piers? I guess in a cable-stayed bridge that would work, since it is balanced on either side. What will those French think of next. First blue cheese and now this.

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at December 18, 2004 11:05 PM