World’s tallest bridge opens in France

French President Jacques Chirac dedicated the world’s tallest bridge on Dec. 14.

The Millau Bridge in southern France is 53 feet taller than the Eiffel Tower and stretches 1.6 miles through the Massif Central Mountains. The bridge will allow motorists to drive 891 feet above the Tarn River valley. Designed by British architect Norman Foster, who also designed London’s Millennium Bridge, the structure measures 1,222 feet at its tallest point and is made of steel and concrete, with seven pillars and streamline diagonal suspension cables.

“This exceptional opening will go down in industrial and technological history,” Chirac said during the dedication speech. He praised the designers and builders for constructing a “prodigy of art and architecture – a new emblem of French civil engineering.”

The $523 million bridge was commissioned to open a new north-south link between Paris and the Mediterranean, and is supposed to ease traffic bottlenecks caused by vehicles headed to the Riviera. Approximately 28,000 vehicles a day are expected to cross the bridge during the summer, and about 10,000 per day during the rest of the year. Motorists will have to pay tolls to cross, about $6.50 in the winter to $8.60 in the summer. Trucks will have to pay $32.24 for a pass good for one year.

The world’s second tallest bridge is Colorado’s Royal Gorge Bridge, which rises 1,053 above the Arkansas River and is still the world’s tallest suspension bridge. The Kochertal viaduct in Germany was the highest roadway, at 607 feet, until the Millau Bridge was completed.