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1 MILLAU BRIDGE – FRANCE (A Bridge that Became a Major Tourist Attraction) Steve Krar The Millau Bridge was built in the south of France as the last link in the ‘route to the sun’ motorway that carries thousands of holidaymakers to the Mediterranean from Paris and the north each year. This section of the route, pre-bridge, was slow and difficult and could add many hours to the journey. The solution was the Millau Viaduct, designed by renowned architect Norman Foster, and opened to critical acclaim in 2004. The steel-and-concrete bridge with its streamlined diagonal suspension cables rests on seven pillars -- the tallest measuring 644 feet (340 metres), making it 52.5 feet (16 metres) taller than the Eiffel Tower. France's newest wonder, a four lane highway bridge that pierces the sky above the lush hills of southern France, was officially opened to vehicles on December 14, 2004. The bridge enabled motorists to take a drive through the sky, 885.8 feet (270 metres) above the Tarn River valley for a 2.5- kilometre stretch through France's Massif Central mountains. The Millau bridge is located just north Herault in the southern region of France, a popular holiday destination for the French as well as other nationalities. With the extension of the A75 motorway, the Herault is now easily reached by car from other parts of France. This has increased the popularity of areas such as Cap D'Agde, Pezenas and Beziers that are now some of the most popular in southern France. So much so that an increasing number of Europeans are buying property in the Herault as holiday homes. Before the bridge, the journey by road from the North of France down to the south was always plagued by a notorious bottleneck in the town of Millau. There was no way round it, so you just had to take your chances and hope for the best. It was a kind of French Lottery where if you won, it didn't seem as though you won anything, but if you lost, you sure did know about it. 2 Having been caught in traffic going through Millau a number of times, the new Millau Viaduct crossing is a welcome addition to any holidaymaker driving down south. A Major Tourist Attraction More than just a bridge, it has become a major attraction in its own right. When it first opened, the Millau Bridge had no provision for ’spectators’ - so motorists were stopping on the bridge to take photos, and causing delays and traffic jams - which pretty much defeated the object of the bridge! There are now viewing and parking places, both at bridge level and in the valley below, and a minimum speed limit of 60 kmh on the bridge itself. As eloquently says, ‘it expresses a fascination with the relationships between function, technology and aesthetics in a graceful structural form.’ The incredible thing is that people, lots of them, travel for hours just to see the bridge - and come back pleased that they did. It is amazing that it is possible to build an enormous bridge across a beautiful river valley, in a Regional Natural Park, and actually create a successful attraction from it. So if you are hanging out in the south of France this summer, don’t just get excited about your destination. Now you can also look forward to the journey as well. You’re going to see a true miracle of the modern world. An Enormous Construction Project For three years, the A75 autoroute Millau bridge crossing has been one of the largest construction projects in Europe, if not, the world. Unveiled by French President Monsieur Jacques Chirac, the A75 autoroute Millau bridge crossing has been built to "Unblock" the notorious Millau bottleneck saving an estimated 30 minutes under normal conditions and up to four hours on a busy summer weekend on a journey across the Gorges of the Tarn river. The Designer Designed by the renowned British Architect Lord Norman Foster, the A75 autoroute Millau bridge crossing was described by Lord Foster as his "sculpture in the landscape. "The whole thing looks impossibly delicate," Foster said in a telephone interview. As Monsieur 3 Chirac told a reception, "The Millau Viaduct is a magnificent example, in the long and great French tradition, of audacious works of art, a tradition begun at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries by the great Gustave Eiffel." The World's Tallest Bridge Features Everything has been thought of and provided to ensure the comfort and safety of road- users when they cross the viaduct. The viaduct is equipped with: • specially designed safety barriers that can withstand impact from heavy trucks. • transparent windbreak screens 9.8 feet (3 meters) high to limit the effect of the wind on vehicles. • emergency lanes 9.8 feet (3 metres) wide. • emergency phones every 1640 feet (500 metres). • A surveillance and control centre monitors the viaduct round-the-clock. It is equipped with high-performance security equipment such as: Video surveillance linked to an automatic incident-detection system that immediately informs the control centre if there is any irregularity in the traffic Automatic video recording A vehicle counting facility Weather stations Programmable message boards enabling information to be issued instantaneously.
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