Chirac opens world's tallest bridge in S France

14th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

MILLAU, France, Dec 14 (AFP) - A bridge officially designated the tallest in the world was inaugurated by President Jacques Chirac in southern France Tuesday - a spectacular feat of engineering that will carry motorists at 270 metres (885 feet) above the valley of the river Tarn.

MILLAU, France, Dec 14 (AFP) - A bridge officially designated the tallest in the world was inaugurated by President Jacques Chirac in southern France Tuesday - a spectacular feat of engineering that will carry motorists at 270 metres (885 feet) above the valley of the river Tarn.

Before an audience of around 1,000 people including architect Norman Foster, Chirac unveiled a plaque by the largest of the bridge's seven pillars which rises to 343 metres above ground level. French air-force jets swept by overhead.

The Millau motorway viaduct stretches for 2.46 kilometres (1.6 miles) between two plateaux in the Massif Central mountain range and when it opens to traffic Thursday it will remove one of the country's most notorious bottlenecks.

Unusually for such a large infrastructure project in France, the bridge's EUR 390 million (USD 520 million) cost was financed entirely by the private sector, with the construction giant Eiffage getting the right to collect tolls for 75 years in return.

Like a taut thread pierced by a line of needles, the silhouette dominates the countryside for miles around and has been praised as a classic marriage of aesthetics and science. More than 60,000 people have already paid for tours of the construction site.

"A work of man must fuse with nature. The pillars had to look almost organic, like they had grown from the earth," Foster said in a special edition of the local newspaper Midi Libre.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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