Viaduc De Millau (French), or the Millau Viaduct is a multi-span cable-stayed bridge spanning across Tarn Valley near the city of Millau in France. Completed in 2004, it is the tallest bridge in the world and the highest bridge in Europe. Widely regarded as an engineering masterpiece, the structure was built to reduce the pressure on the local roads connecting France to Spain by feeding a direct freeway, and also opening up the Massif Central region of France, thereby boosting the local economy. Creating several records, the Millau Viaduct is unquestionably an epitome of sophistication in civil engineering and construction and much more than just a bridge’. So, here are ten things about Viaduc De Millau that you did not know –
1. The Construction Of The Bridge Started After 13 Years Of Research
In 1987, the initial studies for the bridge started. It was the time when the construction of Normandy Bridge, another cable-stayed bridge in France, was about to begin. Both the bridges were envisioned by the French structural engineer Dr. Michel Virlogeux. The research conducted included both structural as well as costing studies.
2. Thousands Of Tourists Visit The Bridge Every year To Explore And Learn About The Engineering Marvel
It is estimated that around 500,000 visitors come here every year. These are not just riders passing by but people who come specially to appreciate the structure. There are options to explore it over water by canoes, or from the sky by paragliding or gyrocopters. Several viewpoints located near the bridge are a treat for tourists, especially artists and photographers from around the world.
3. To Ensure Safety, A Large Portion Of The Bridge Was Pre- Fabricated And Assembled On-Ground
The bridge deck is composed of pre-fabricated steel sections, transported to the site, and assembled-on ground. The two-halves for the deck were placed at the opposite ends and then pushed towards each other using hydraulic machinery. The pre-fabricated pylons were later transported horizontally onto the deck where they were then rotated and installed. No worker fatalities were reported throughout its construction.
4. The Bridge Was Constructed In Record Time
With construction beginning in December 2001 and ending in December 2003, it took only three years to complete the bridge. As a comparison, the Normandy Bridge, another cable-stayed bridge with a total length of 2141 meters, almost half a kilometer shorter than the Viaduct De Millau at 2640 meters length, took about six years to complete. This, in part, can be attributed to the pre-fabricated steel sections and pylons used that would save construction time.
5. The Tallest Bridge In The World Is Taller Than The Eiffel Tower
At its summit, the bridge is 343 meters tall, 19 meters taller than the Eiffel Tower which stands at 324 meters at its tip. It is currently the tallest bridge in the world and is 4.4 meters taller than the Pingtang Bridge in China, the second tallest bridge in the world with a structural height of 332 meters. Of the seven pylons in the viaduct, its tallest pylon, P2, is 245 meters tall.
6. The Construction Of The Viaduct Was Phased Into Six Major Stages
Pylon Being Erected onto the Bridge © leviaducdemillau.com
The whole construction process can be broken down into six major stages. These include – constructing the piles, the assembly of the deck and the launch of its two sides from either side of the bridge, the joining of the two sides of the deck in the middle which had a net error of less than a centimeter, installing the pylons, installing the tensile cables, and completing the finishing work which included the asphalt road and installing the toll barrier. This was followed by multiple-checks and tests on the bridge.
7. A Competition Was Floated For The Design Of The Bridge
After initial studies into the project by a team led by engineer Michel Virlogeux, a competition was floated in 1993 amongst architects and civil engineers to expand on the design possibilities. Multiple architecture and civil-engineering firms took part in it, of which, after several rounds, the idea of multi-span cable-stayed bridge by architects Foster + Partners in association with the structural engineering group EEG (Europe Etudes Gecti) – Sogelerg – SERF was selected.
8. It Has Dramatically Reduced Traffic Congestion And Time Taken To Cross The Tarn Valley
Earlier, motorists could take up to four hours to cross the valley on a day of heavy traffic. With the advent of the 2.6 km bridge that leapfrogs the previous route, that duration has been dramatically reduced to a few minutes. It has also decreased the traffic congestion on the local roads, which caused much distress to the nearby residents, especially during the summer months.
9. Its Pillars Were Designed To Resemble Sewing Needles
In an illustrative sketch by architect Norman Foster, the bridge is shown to have derived its form from that of a thread through a sewing needle. Here the thread represents the bridge’s span, and the needles represent the pillars. The whole idea was to imbue a feeling of certain delicacy and elegance to what is a big, massive structure.
10. Viaduc De Millau Has Its Own Website
It will take a while before the world opens up and you can visit and enjoy the magnificence of the viaduct yourself. However, you can visit the official website dedicated to it at leviaducdemillau.com. Here one can read about its history, learn about facts, use an interactive interface to gain further information about its structure, and much more.