World's Tallest Bridge Inaugurated
PERRINE LATRASSE / AP 14dec04
The Millau motorway viaduct is 270 meters above ground, with suspension cables 343 meters (1,132 feet) above ground at its highest point or 23 meters higher than the Eiffel Tower.(AFP/Eric Cabanis)
Below -French President Jacques Chirac talks with Lord Norman Foster English, designer of the Millau Viaduct, during the inauguration ceremony December 14, 2004. The Viaduct is composed of seven slender soaring pillars and becomes the highest bridge in the world at 343 meters, creating a direct route between Paris and the Mediterranean coast. REUTERS/POOL/Patrick Kovarik
MILLAU, France — Piercing the sky above the verdant hills of southern France, a roadway bridge hailed as the tallest in the world was officially inaugurated Tuesday.
Celebrated as a work of art and an object of French national pride, the Millau bridge will enable motorists to take a drive through the sky — 891 feet above the Tarn River valley for 1.6-mile stretch through France's Massif Central mountains.
Designed by British architect Norman Foster, the steel-and-concrete bridge with its streamlined diagonal suspension cables rests on seven pillars — the tallest measuring 1,122 feet, making it 53 feet taller than the Eiffel Tower.
The bridge, which has an airy and fluid appearance, was designed to have the "delicacy of a butterfly," Foster said in an interview with regional daily newspaper Midi Libre.
"A work of man must fuse with nature. The pillars had to look almost organic, like they had grown from the earth," said Foster, who also designed London's Millennium Bridge.
Colorado's Royal Gorge Bridge, towering 1,053 feet above the Arkansas River, is the world's tallest suspension bridge — but it is designed for pedestrians. The Kochertal viaduct in Germany was the highest roadway, at 607 feet, officials said.
President Jacques Chirac, surrounded by workers in hard hats, lifted a French flag covering a plaque on the bridge in the town of Millau on Tuesday. Fighter jets roared overhead, leaving a trail of red, white and blue smoke.
"This exceptional opening will go down in industrial and technological history," Chirac said, praising the bridge's designers and builders for creating "a prodigy of art and architecture — a new emblem of French civil engineering."
The bridge will serve as a symbol of "a modern and conquering France," he said.
Millau, whose skyline is dominated by the bridge, had until now been best-known outside France as the place where anti-globalization crusader Jose Bove dismantled a McDonald's restaurant.
The bridge, nearly three years in construction, opens to vehicles on Thursday.
The $523 million bridge was commissioned to open a new north-south link between Paris and the Mediterranean and is expected to relieve bottlenecks caused by trucks and tourists headed to the Riviera.
Images of the bridge, which dominates the surrounding Rhone Valley countryside for miles, have appeared in national media for days. Aerial photos published in Le Monde's Tuesday edition show the bridge rising above the clouds, and the newspaper's editorial declares it "a work of art."
Some 28,000 vehicles a day are expected to cross the bridge in the summer months, and about 10,000 a day the rest of the year, according to France's Eiffage construction company, which built it.
Toll fees for motorists will vary from $6.50 in winter and $8.62 in summer. Trucks will have to pay $32.24 year-round.
source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A63212-2004Dec14.html 14dec04
Spectacular Bridge — World's Tallest — Opens Tuesday in France
MILLAU, France — A bridge officially designated the tallest in the world is to be inaugurated in southern France — a spectacular feat of engineering that will carry motorists at 270 metres (885 feet) above the valley of the river Tarn.
Designed by British architect Norman Foster, the Millau motorway viaduct stretches for 2.46 kilometres (1.6 miles) between two plateaux in the Massif Central mountain range and when it opens Thursday will remove one of the country's most notorious traffic bottlenecks.
Built of steel and concrete at a cost of 390 million euros (520 million dollars), the bridge rests on seven pillars, one of which — dubbed P2 — climbs to 343 metres above ground level, making it 23 metres higher than the Eiffel Tower.
Like a taut thread pierced by a line of needles, the silhouette dominates the countryside for miles around and has been praised as a classic marriage of aesthetics and science. More than 60,000 people have already paid for tours of the construction site.
"A work of man must fuse with nature. The pillars had to look almost organic, like they had grown from the earth," Foster said in a special edition of the local newspaper Midi Libre.
"The bridge could not look as if it had been tacked onto the scenery. It had to rise out of the landscape with the delicacy of a butterfly."
The viaduct is not only the tallest in the world — outstripping the 282-metre (928 foot) towers of the Akashi Kaikyo bridge in Japan — it is also the longest cable-stayed bridge. The Tatara Ohashi bridge in Japan is 1.48 kilometres long.
The highest bridge in the world — measured by distance from deck to ground level — remains the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado, US which is 320 metres (1,053 feet) above the river Arkansas.
President Jacques Chirac will officially launch the Millau bridge at Tuesday's ceremony, almost exactly three years after work began. Some 3,000 people have been employed by the French construction giant Eiffage, which holds the right to draw a toll for the next 75 years.
The bridge was commissioned in order to open up a new north-south route across central France and relieve pressure from lorry-drivers and tourists bound for the Mediterranean and Spain in the saturated Rhone valley corridor to the east.
Travellers on the A75 motorway between Clermont-Ferrand and Beziers have been forced to a crawl as they descended to the town of Millau — best-known recently as the place where anti-globalisation activist Jose Bove smashed a McDonald's restaurant.
Motorists will now be able to pay a fee of 4.9 euros (6.5 dollars) to speed above the town. Lorry-drivers will be charged about four times as much.
Eiffage is predicting an average of 10,000 vehicles per day, with a peak of 25,000 during the summer season when tariffs will be increased. If the bridge proves unexpectedly profitable, the French state has the right to take possession from 2044.
Weighing some 36,000 tonnes, the bridge was assembled as much as possible off-site. Large sections were lifted by giant crane and slid onto the pillars, with the two ends meeting in May. It has been built to withstand wind-speeds of up to 250 kilometres per hour.
"In our civilisation infrastructure is fundamental. Public spaces, avenues, bridges over rivers — these are what bring men together and condition our quality of life. But there are also needs which one cannot measure, which are more spiritual," Foster said.
"Ideally passing over the bridge should allow one to 'elevate oneself.' Looking at it should provoke an emotion. Its purpose is to allow people to cross the valley without damaging the town of Millau. But it goes far beyond that," he said.
source: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/francetransportbridge 14dec04