What makes a bridge a viaduct

Millau Viaduct - traffic calming in a very, very big way

Modern architecture? Certainly not for everyone. But where opinions often differ when it comes to buildings, there is usually agreement on new bridges. The Millau Viaduct in Provence is no different, and rightly so. The cable-stayed bridge that spans the valley of the Tarn River is nothing short of impressive in every way.

Table of Contents
A bridge of superlatives | The history and technical data | Finally, a word about the place Millau | The Millau Viaduct in a nutshell

In their dimensions, in their technical details and, last but not least, in their appearance. It is even a blessing for the residents of Millau. In the high season they used to suffer (like the travelers to a lesser extent) from traffic chaos, traffic jams, many accidents and, above all, eternal waiting times. When the viaduct went into operation in 2004, all of that was history. Although, there are also travelers who still prefer the traditional route. You want to admire the viaduct from below. It's really worth seeing from every perspective.

A bridge of superlatives

The Millau Viaduct (French: Viaduc de Millau) is now the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world and, with a maximum pillar height of 343 meters, the tallest structure in France. In the Massif Central in the south of France, it represents a section of the A 75, which leads from Béziers to Clermont-Ferrand. There it spans the valley of the small river Tarn for almost two and a half kilometers with its impressive architecture. The cars undertake this journey at an almost dizzying height of up to 270 meters above sea level. This not only makes the vacation trip faster, it also becomes a real experience. Whether you actually arrive at your destination sooner is perhaps even the question. The viaduct is a real sight, and indeed, many travelers take the time to admire it extensively. There are corresponding vantage points along the course of the route, including from the Cazalous rest area or the towns of Peyre, Beffroi or Soulobres. At the Brocuéjouls picnic area you can even see Michelin stars and combine visual enjoyment with exquisite cuisine.

In general, it is worthwhile, if at all possible, to interrupt the trip for the viaduct and see it as a real sight. A museum and information center on building history provide the relevant information. In the meantime, there is even a guided tour on the old construction site path that impressively brings the technical and human challenges of this bridge to life.

The history of origin and technical data

The construction time for the viaduct was only a sensationally short four years, and the planned construction time was not exceeded by a single day. The engineers had also calculated the costs well. 350 million euros had been estimated, 400 million were ultimately necessary. But nobody was blamed for these rather modest additional costs.

It took almost two decades of planning before construction could finally start. First of all, different routes were considered, then the subsoil had to be examined. When it was finally clear where the viaduct could be built, it was time for the architects. Two names are closely associated with the design: the French civil engineer Michel Virlogeux stands for the technical concept, the British Lord Norman Foster for the architectural design.

The actual construction of the viaduct is linked to a very big name in French history: the realization went to the “Eiffage” group of companies, whose former co-founder was Gustave Eiffel, the legendary builder of the Eiffel Tower. By the way, the highest point of the viaduct towers over the top of the Eiffel Tower by a good 20 meters.

But what can the users of the bridge expect in terms of driving technology? There are two lanes in each direction, each 3.5 meters wide, and a hard shoulder three meters wide; so a total of six lanes. In addition to guardrails, panes over three meters high, which repel the wind, ensure safety. Emergency telephones and fire extinguishers are standard equipment. In addition, the traffic on the viaduct is monitored by video around the clock and patrols are carried out.

The A 75 is basically toll-free, but the passage over the viaduct has to be paid for. The fee is ten euros per vehicle.

Finally, a word about the town of Millau

Admittedly, the Millau Viaduct is the town's greatest attraction today. If you don't want to just drive by, keep an eye out for gloves in Millau. The town was once the center of French glove production. Today there are only a few companies left, but they are tough. They supply the haute couture companies in Paris with their exquisite, hand-sewn products. Whether Chanel, Dior or Hermés - the gloves are guaranteed to come from Millau. The fine models do not have a designer label directly from the manufacturer, but are a bit more affordable.

The Millau Viaduct in a nutshell

  • Almost two and a half kilometers long section of the A 75
  • Longest cable-stayed bridge in the world, tallest structure in France
  • 20 years of planning, four years of construction, 400 million euros in construction costs
  • The toll is ten euros
  • The finest gloves are available in Millau