The Viaduc de Millau in Aveyron is an exceptional French road. A true architectural and technological feat, the viaduct is the tallest and longest cable-stayed bridge in the world.
Overhanging the Tarn from the top of its 343 meters (1140 feet), it allows the junction between Clermont-Ferrand and Béziers on the A75 road. The panorama and the surrounding nature are remarkable.
After 3 years of construction, the viaduct was commissioned in 2004 and celebrated its 10th anniversary in December 2014.
Where is the Millau Viaduct located?
The Millau viaduct is the most spectacular link in La Méridienne road: the A75 motorway, connecting Clermont-Ferrand to Béziers and Narbonne, is the most fluid and less expensive route between Paris and the Mediterranean sea.
Leaning to the north on the Causse Rouge (at the foothills of the Lévézou) and to the south on the Causse du Larzac, the Millau Viaduct crosses the Tarn valley, a few hundred meters from Peyre, one of the 10 “Most Beautiful Villages de France ”in the department of Aveyron. It is of course also very close to Millau, a city of Art and History, the capital of outdoor sports, and the gateway to the Tarn gorges and the Causses and Cévennes territory, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can situate the road on the map just below:
Enlarge the map
Facts about the Millau viaduc:
Description of the road:
It is the highest road bridge in the world (343 meters, 1125 feet). Its deck, which rises 270 meters (885 feet) above the Tarn, was the longest in the world for a cable-stayed bridge (2460 meters, 8070 feet) until the Jia-Shao bridge came into service in 2013. in China. This new structure is 2,680 meters (8,792 feet) long, or 220 meters (721 feet) longer than the Millau Viaduct.
Here are some additional figures, describing a completely non-standard set and an extraordinary technical challenge: “206,000 tonnes of concrete, ie 5 times the total weight of the French aircraft carrier Charles-de-Gaulle fully loaded; 36,000 tonnes is the weight of the steel deck, ie 4 times the weight of the Eiffel Tower; 87 meters (285 feet), it is the height of the pylons, that is to say, a building of 29 floors; 400 million euros is the total cost of the work ”.
Visually, we are not surprised, we are overwhelmed! Downright fascinated by this graceful marriage of nature and technology. The shrouds form a major element of this remarkable aesthetic. They are a strong mark of the viaduct’s identity. Arriving in the area, an image jumps out at us: that of a masterful sailboat sailing on an invisible sea, or moored in a heavenly port.
For a viaduct of this magnitude, it was built in a record time of three years, from 2001 to 2004.
The total budget amounted to 400 million euros.
It was designed by the french engineer Michel Virlogeux and by the english architect Lord Norman Foster.
There were 13 years of technical studies and the site cost more than 2 billion euros
Itinerary of the road
The viaduc is accessible from the A75 motorway.
On the A75 motorway, the viaduct viewing area is located between exits 45 and 46.
The access is free to the rest area of the viaduct from the north before the toll, exit 45, or from Millau on the D911
You can visualize how to get there on this map of the drive:
How discover the viaduc:
You can explore the viaduct by other means than the car.
Indeed, for the more athletic, it is possible to go under the viaduct by canoe. It is also possible to hike to approach the bridge.
The most courageous can fly over it in a paraglider or hang-glider.
Before or after the passage, depending on the direction in which you are driving, you can stop at the Millau viaduct motorway area (north side). Much more than a simple motorway area, it is a real free museum area with more than 200m2 of exhibition space to learn more about the viaduct. There are also different viewpoints within walking distance to take great photos. It is advisable to spend at least an hour there to enjoy it!
A preview of the drive:
If you are planning to drive this road, you should obviously watch this Youtube video to have an idea of this scenic drive:
Don’t forget about the other classic bridge as the Eshima Ohashi Bridge in Japan.
Is the Millau viaduc open?
The bridge is open all year around.
You should also be aware that you can’t stop your car or bike on the bridge to take pictures: indeed there is a minimum speed limit to avoid dangerous situations.
If you are in the area, it is impossible to miss this bridge. A true masterpiece of engineering! Do not hesitate to take advantage of a few hours in the area to fully enjoy this mythical route!
Pictures credits: By Bert Kaufmann on flickr.com / By W. Bulach – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73444269
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