from New York Times
World's Tallest Bridge Soars Above French Valley
Published: December 14, 2004
MILLAU, France, Dec. 1, -- 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 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 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 520 million dollars 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.
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