Certainly the sequence of erection was critical. First the massive concrete piers were poured, rising 4 m every three days. Then the first segment of roadway was constructed high above on the Larzac plateau. One of the cable towers was also installed to permit the long cantilevering section, while the deck was being pushed out over the valley.
Segment by segment the bridge was constructed until the point at which the two ends met in the middle – no more than a few millimeters off target! That feat seems even more incredible when you drive over the bridge and realize that it actually makes a slight arc over the valley. Oddly, the rest of the cable towers were not installed until the link had been made. Apparently, the box-girder deck segments were substantially stiff to allow the transport of these huge towers under shored conditions.
Two visitors’ centers explain the process of design and construction of the viaduct. They also provide contrasting view points from which to admire the bridge. One of these areas is maintained by Effage, the company that oversaw the construction. They are now in charge of operation and maintenance of the viaduct. Visitors to this lookout can appreciate the awesome size of the piers by standing near their base. The tallest pier is actually even taller than the Eiffel Tower.
The elegance of the Millau Viaduct, seeming to accent the natural beauty of the region, was not an accident. Michel Virlogeux conceived the viaduct and Norman Foster‘s team designed the architectural effect. Through the project life-cycle thousands of people contributed to its construction. And today millions of people annually pay the toll to drive across on the most direct route from Paris to Southwest France.
You can read about more of my ongoing adventures abroad at http://mistralwriter.blogspot.com