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14.12.04

A Pont du Gard for the 21st Century

Viaduc de MillauI enjoy watching the evening news from France 2: for the past couple weeks, there has been a nightly piece on the completion of a grand building project, the Viaduc de Millau. Yesterday, as described in an article (Inaugurant le viaduc de Millau, M. Chirac vante les prouesses de l'ingénierie française, December 14) by Béatrice Gurrey for Le Monde, President Jacques Chirac invited an exclusive list of about a thousand guests to inaugurate the suspension bridge that sets a new record, not by its incredible length of 2,460 meters (1.53 miles) but by its soaring height, 340 meters (1115.47 feet) above the ground at the highest point. As a point of comparison, that is higher than the Eiffel Tower, including its antenna. Although it is being hailed in France as the symbol of French building ingenuity, it was designed by British architect Norman Foster.

It's quite beautiful, although its function is quotidian, to join two parts of the A75 autoroute, which will allow vehicles to travel across the Tarn Gorge on the north-south axis between Clermont-Ferrand and Béziers in far less time. The budget was a mere 394 million €, none of it apparently from the French government. Vehicle traffic will begin traversing the bridge on December 17. Just looking at it, soaring above the valley mists below, terrifies me. I don't know if I could drive across it.

UPDATE:
The Guardian has this gallery of pictures of the Viaduc de Millau.

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