If you suffer from a fear of heights, then perhaps the best thing would be to not travel to the tallest bridge in the world (and 12th highest), France’s Millau Viaduct. (If you are however not afraid of heights, then you should definitely make the trip!)
The Millau Viaduct is a cable-stayed bridge that spans the valley of the River Tarn near Millau in southern France.
Designed by the French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Foster, it is the tallest bridge in the world with one mast’s summit at 343.0 metres above the base of the structure. It is the 12th highest bridge deck in the world, being 270 metres between the road deck and the ground below.
The Millau Viaduct is part of the A75-A71 autoroute axis from Paris to Béziers and Montpellier. The cost of construction was approximately €400 million. It was formally inaugurated on 14 December 2004, and opened to traffic on 16 December.
The bridge has been consistently ranked as one of the great engineering achievements of all time. The bridge received the 2006 International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering Outstanding Structure Award.
What’s particularly interesting here is the funding model. The bridge’s construction cost up to €394 million, with a toll plaza 6 km (3.7 mi) north of the viaduct costing an additional €20 million. The builders, Eiffage, financed the construction in return for a concession to collect the tolls for 75 years, until 2080. However, (and this is the part I like) if the concession yields high revenues, the French government can assume control of the bridge as early as 2044.
The project required about 127,000 cubic metres of concrete, 19,000 tonnes of steel for the reinforced concrete and 5,000 tonnes of pre-stressed steel for the cables and shrouds. The builder claims that the lifetime of the bridge will be at least 120 years – giving you plenty of time to pop along and see it if you haven’t yet gotten around to it! ;)