Description

A pylon under construction

The Millau Viaduct consists of an eight-span steel roadway supported by seven concrete pylons. The roadway weighs 36,000 tons and is 2,460 m (8,100 ft) long, measuring 32 m (100 ft) wide by 4.2 m (14 ft) deep, making it the world's longest cable-stayed deck. The six central spans each measure 342 m (1,120 ft) with the two outer spans measuring 204 m (670 ft). The roadway has a slope of 3% descending from south to north, and curves in a plane section with a 20 km (12 mi) radius to give drivers better visibility. The pylons range in height from 77 m (250 ft) to 246 m (810 ft), and taper in their longitudinal section from 24.5 m (80 ft) at the base to 11 m (36 ft) at the deck. Each pylon is composed of 16 framework sections, each weighing 2,230 tons. These sections were assembled on site from pieces of 60 tons, 4 m (13 ft) wide and 17 m (56 ft) long, made in factories in Lauterbourg and Fos-sur-Mer by Eiffage. The pylons each support 97 m (320 ft) tall masts.

The pylons were assembled first, together with some intermediate temporary pylons, before the decks were slid out across the piers by satellite-guided hydraulic rams that moved the deck 600 mm every 4 minutes. Then the masts were driven over the new deck, erected on top of the pylons, connected to the deck and the temporary pylons removed.

Construction began on 10 October 2001 and was intended to take three years, but weather conditions put work on the bridge behind schedule. A revised schedule aimed for the bridge to be opened in January 2005. The viaduct was inaugurated by President Chirac on 14 December 2004 to open for traffic on 16 December, several weeks ahead of the revised schedule.

The construction of the bridge was depicted in an episode of the National Geographic Channel MegaStructures series, as well as Discovery Channel's Extreme Engineering.

Pylons and abutments

Each pylon is supported by four deep shafts, 15 m (49 ft) deep and 5 m (16 ft) in diameter.

Heights of the piers
P1 P2 P3 P4 P5 P6 P7
94.501 m (310 ft 0.5 in) 244.96 m (803 ft 8 in) 221.05 m (725 ft 3 in) 144.21 m (473 ft 2 in) 136.42 m (447 ft 7 in) 111.94 m (367 ft 3 in) 77.56 m (254 ft 6 in)

The abutments are concrete structures that provide anchorage for the deck to the ground in the Causse du Larzac and the Causse Rouge.

Deck

The metallic deck, which appears very light despite its total mass of around 36,000 metric tons (40,000 short tons), is 2,460 m (8,100 ft) long and 32 m (100 ft) wide. It comprises eight spans. The six central spans measure 342 m (1,120 ft), and the two outer spans are 204 metres (670 ft). These are composed of 173 central box beams, the spinal column of the construction, onto which the lateral floors and the lateral box beams were welded. The central box beams have a 4 m (13 ft) cross-section and a length of 15–22 m (49-72 ft) for a total weight of 90 metric tons (99 short tons). The deck has an inverse airfoil shape, providing negative lift in strong wind conditions.

Masts

The seven masts, each 87 m (290 ft) high and weighing around 700 metric tons (770 short tons), are set on top of the pylons. Between each of them, eleven stays (metal cables) are anchored, providing support for the road deck.

Stays

Each mast of the viaduct is equipped with a monoaxial layer of eleven pairs of stays laid face to face. Depending on their length, the stays were made of 55 to 91 high tensile steel cables, or strands, themselves formed of seven strands of steel (a central strand with six intertwined strands). Each strand has triple protection against corrosion (galvanisation, a coating of petroleum wax and an extruded polyethylene sheath). The exterior envelope of the stays is itself coated along its entire length with a double helical weatherstrip. The idea is to avoid running water which, in high winds, could cause vibration in the stays and compromise the stability of the viaduct.

The stays were installed by the Freyssinet company.

Surface

To allow for deformations of the metal deck under traffic, a special surface of modified bitumen was installed by research teams from Appia. The surface is somewhat flexible to adapt to deformations in the steel deck without cracking, but it must nevertheless have sufficient strength to withstand motorway conditions (fatigue, density, texture, adherence, anti-rutting, etc.). The "ideal formula" was found only after ten years of research.

Electrical installations

The electrical installations of the viaduct are impressive, in proportion to the immensity of the bridge. There are 30 km (19 mi) of high-current cables, 20 km (12 mi) of fibre optics, 10 km (6.2 mi) of low-current cables and 357 telephone sockets allowing maintenance teams to communicate with each other and with the command post. These are situated on the deck, on the pylons and on the masts.

As far as instrumentation is concerned, the viaduct is state of the art. The pylons, deck, masts and stays are equipped with a multitude of sensors. These are designed to detect the slightest movement in the viaduct and measure its resistance to wear-and-tear over time. Anemometers, accelerometers, inclinometers, temperature sensors are all used for the instrumentation network.

Twelve fibre optic extensometers were installed in the base of pylon P2. Being the tallest of all, it is therefore under the most intense stress. These sensors detect movements on the order of a micrometre. Other extensometers — electrical this time — are distributed on top of P2 and P7. This apparatus is capable of taking up to 100 readings per second. In high winds, they continuously monitor the reactions of the viaduct to extreme conditions. Accelerometers placed strategically on the deck monitor the oscillations that can affect the metal structure. Displacements of the deck on the abutment level are measured to the nearest millimetre. The stays are also instrumented, and their ageing meticulously analysed. Additionally, two piezoelectric sensors gather traffic data: weight of vehicles, average speed, density of the flow of traffic, etc. This system can distinguish between fourteen different types of vehicle.

The data is transmitted by an Ethernet network to a computer in the IT room at the management building situated near the toll plaza.

The Gare de péage (toll plaza)

Toll plaza

The only toll plaza on the A75 autoroute, the bridge toll booths and the buildings for the commercial and technical management teams are situated 4 km (2.5 mi) north of the viaduct. The toll plaza is protected by a canopy in the shape of a leaf (formed from tendrilled concrete, using the ceracem process). Consisting of 53 elements (voussoirs), the canopy is 100 m (330 ft) long and 28 m (92 ft) wide. It weighs around 2,500 metric tons (2,800 short tons).

The toll plaza can accommodate sixteen lanes of traffic, eight in each direction. At times of low traffic volume, the central booth is capable of servicing vehicles in both directions. A car park and viewing station, equipped with public toilets, is situated each side of the toll plaza. The total cost was €20 million.

Service area

The Visitor Centre and Farm, Aire de Viaduc de Millau

In 2005 temporary provision had been made to access the viewing point from junction 45. By 2006, there were separate exits from both carriageways of the A75, to Aire de Viaduc de Millau. Here there are three separated car parks for northbound, southbound and non-motorway traffic so cross over is not possible. There is an exhibition centre, and the existing buildings of the Farm of Brocuejouls are being restored.

Statistics

  • 2,460 m (8,071 ft): total length of the roadway
  • 7: number of piers
  • 77 m (253 ft): height of Pier 7, the shortest
  • 343 m (1,125 ft): height of Pier 2, the tallest (245 m/804 ft at the roadway's level)
  • 87 m (285 ft): height of a mast
  • 154: number of shrouds
  • 270 m (886 ft): average height of the roadway
  • 4.20 m (13 ft 9 in): thickness of the roadway
  • 32.05 m (105 ft 2 in): width of the roadway
  • 85,000 m³ (111,000 cu yd): total volume of concrete used
  • 290,000 metric tons (320,000 short tons): total weight of the bridge
  • 10,000–25,000 vehicles: estimated daily traffic
  • €5.40–7.00: typical automobile toll, as of July 2007
  • 20 km (12 mi): horizontal radius of curvature of the road deck