Bridge of sighs
August 18, 2004 4:38 AM   Subscribe

Now that's a bridge. Highest bridge in the world from Jan 2005. Slightly scary as well. (euro post week)
posted by johnny7 (48 comments total)
Wow. That'd be great - driving through the clouds like that.

Europe gets a whole week? We are honoured! ;)
posted by Blue Stone at 4:58 AM on August 18, 2004

From jan 2005? Does that mean it's not operational yet? I'm going to be in France in a few months and I was hoping to drive across it.
posted by taumeson at 5:22 AM on August 18, 2004

My French is rusty (OK, non-existant despite 6 years of it in Canadian grade school) but if those pics were from January there's no way it'd be open. Still, it'd be cool to see the construction.
posted by substrate at 5:30 AM on August 18, 2004

Driving through the clouds? How about diving through the clouds? This bridge was built for BASE jumping.
posted by caddis at 5:49 AM on August 18, 2004

Amazing bridge. But what's more amazing is they allowed an Englishman to design it!
posted by derbs at 5:51 AM on August 18, 2004

For those who don't read French, the article says:
"The Mofo Muthafatha Bridge, designed by Lord "Big Balls' Norman Foster will be the tallest bridge in the world until Osama finds out about it, at which point things could get messy"
posted by Outlawyr at 6:08 AM on August 18, 2004

It's beautiful, but why was it necessary?
posted by rushmc at 6:30 AM on August 18, 2004

it's necessary because it's beautiful.

i hope they have strong side barriers.
posted by nylon at 6:48 AM on August 18, 2004

Amazing bridge. But what's more amazing is they allowed an Englishman to design it!

*gasp* Our bridges are the dogs nuts.
posted by Summer at 6:48 AM on August 18, 2004

Hmm, the first time I went to the page, it was definately in French. The second time I went to the page I could either read French, or the page was in English. Cool.

Caddis: you have it pegged. Unless they deploy the Army ont that bridge, it is going to be base jumpers delight.
posted by a3matrix at 6:53 AM on August 18, 2004

You're right! How did it become English like that?
posted by donkeymon at 7:37 AM on August 18, 2004

Nice link, johnny7. I'm enjoying "euro post week." Here is some more info, en anglais. Also, for bridgephiles(?) see the Strait of Messina Bridge (sicily).
posted by shoepal at 7:39 AM on August 18, 2004

Nice to see ya Summer. Been away?

taumeson: I too will be in the area in a coupla months. so I won't have the opps to drive over it...but I may drive up to it & take a few pics.

Then, of course, I'll blog 'em.
posted by dash_slot- at 7:46 AM on August 18, 2004

> it's necessary because it's beautiful.

Easy to say when it's not your taxes paying for it. ; ) No, really, what is it for? I only see one small river, which wouldn't merit a bridge of this size...unless it's meant purely as a tourist attraction, which seems like a funny idea to me. Still, it's breathtaking, even if it looks like it has the same "luminous veil" that Toronto's Bloor viaduct has been saddled with in order to prevent suicides. Hope it doesn't ruin the view as much as Toronto's has.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:47 AM on August 18, 2004

Now that's a target if I've ever seen one.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:04 AM on August 18, 2004

Why a 1.5 mile bridge. Note also that it is privately financed. I wonder if it's a big terorist target, being far from a populated centre and not a critical transport link like an intra-city bridge, but good point on the base jumpers.
posted by cardboard at 8:18 AM on August 18, 2004

Great post... Now that's a bridge to the 22nd Century.
posted by micropublishery at 8:53 AM on August 18, 2004

I didn't really understand that explanation of why this bridge was necessary. Was the implication that this method is, in fact, the most economical? It seems hard to believe this could be cheaper than merely building a plain old highway with a short bridge over the river, but then I am absent an engineering economics degree as well.
posted by PigAlien at 8:56 AM on August 18, 2004

> it's necessary because it's beautiful.

posted by Capn at 9:07 AM on August 18, 2004

BASE Jumping is legal in France, no? It will probably be encouraged.
posted by fullerine at 9:08 AM on August 18, 2004

Pig Alien: a short bridge is the easiest and cheapest way of crossing the river, but the objective of the viaduct is to cross the valley. If you had at-grade roads and a low bridge over the river, you'd need either: very steep roads on either side of the valley; long, winding roads switchbacking up the sides of the valley; or some length of tunneling/blasting through the valley walls to reduce the grade of the road. Taking this into consideration, the people making the bridge made the judgement call that a big bridge was the way to go.
posted by cardboard at 9:16 AM on August 18, 2004

I really liked this post as well. I'm just now surfacing from a five hour jaunt into googling and wikipedia that started from this bridge; went through "aquaduct" (via "viaduct"), specifically the Pont du Gard and Caesarea Palaestina; a short detour on the history of the Colosseum and a clarification of (and debunking of the folk wisdom about) "vomitoria", and a bit about Vespasian, and his son Titus; the disambiguation page on Titus which reminded me that Shakespeare's "Titus" is a different person; that yet another "Titus" discovered "petroleum", which led me to a long excursion into petroleum, aromatic hydrocarbons, cellulose; then photgraphic plates and films, the famous lost film "Greed", a pretty interesting site on the restoration of the film "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World", the history of celluloid; then nylon; "The Graphite Page"; the absurd 1997 Houghton, Michigan "Graphite Ball"; a mention of van der Waals force and the "Gecko tape" article I had seen last year; kevlar, nanotubes, and tensile strength; silk; rayon, polystyrene; that tar is artificial and asphalt is natural and both are bitumens; the "History of Asphalt" from the National Asphalt Pavement Association; the "free-floating screed", which I'd understand better with a diagram or picture or something; wood gas; bricks; quite a bit about ceramics; much about plastics in general; back to hydrocarbons; kerogen; petroleum jelly...and then I'd sort of come back to the wiki page where I started. For good measure, though, I finally came back to this tread, read the new comments, followed some more links (I was pleased to see the "Why?" page as I had wondered that). It seems like I read a lot about hydrocarbons and plastics that I didn't list above.

All from the previous Viaduc de Millau link. I love MetaFilter, the Wikipedia, and the web in general. Yeah, lots of the same sort of thing can be found in encylopedias, but only the gloss parts and no ability to go into more depth on demand (which I did on some of those topics), it wouldn't be as up-to-date; and, anyway, simply couldn't be as wide-ranging and at my fingertips. You can't tell me this won't change (the developed) world.

Anyway, thanks for the link and everything that came of it. Hmm. Time for lunch.

On Preview: thanks for the further clarification, cardboard.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:42 AM on August 18, 2004

Thanks, cardboard, that all makes perfect common sense and I had those same thoughts myself, I just couldn't tell from the pictures how challenging the terrain was. I must say, although everyone thinks this bridge is beautiful (and I will agree that as far as bridges go, it is attractive), I would find it quite a panorama-destroying eyesore. I mean, you can't avoid looking at it from miles around. Ugh, no thanks!

However, it would be fun to drive across!
posted by PigAlien at 9:52 AM on August 18, 2004

In other bridgephile news, you can walk across the world's third-longest suspension bridge on Sept. 6. (Any MeFites done this before?)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:54 AM on August 18, 2004

Highest bridge in the world from Jan 2005.

Wow... it's a bridge from the future!
posted by kindall at 10:53 AM on August 18, 2004

I wonder what they mean by "highest"? The deck height of the Mlllau Viaduct is said to be 900 ft above the water. The Royal Gorge Bridge, built in 1929 in Colorado, is 1053 ft. above the water. Perhaps they're referring to the height of the pylon tops?
posted by gregor-e at 10:55 AM on August 18, 2004

As someone who has a recurring nightmare about walking over very, very high bridges, I'm happy for all you bridge and BASE diving fans and am full of admiration for this achievement of engineering. Beautiful design, elegant, a true monument to bridge architecture.

And you wouldn't get me within a mile of it.
posted by jokeefe at 11:00 AM on August 18, 2004

Does this bridge have a problem?
posted by Kwantsar at 11:50 AM on August 18, 2004

Designed by the highest architect in the world.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:58 AM on August 18, 2004

kwantsar, I noticed that too. Is it just a weird angle or intentional engineering? Anyone? Anyone?
posted by shoepal at 12:06 PM on August 18, 2004

That is a construction photo, where all the structural elements of the bridge might not yet be fully in place or properly adjusted. The deflection of the bridge deck depends almost entirely on the tension in each of the cable stays attaching it to the towers. Until the bridge is finished, slightly weird shapes are not unexpected
posted by cardboard at 12:28 PM on August 18, 2004

kwantsar: they built the piers in place, but fabricated the deck separately. That picture was taken while rolling the deck out over the piers. It's flexing and bending because it hasn't been bolted down to the permanent supports yet.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:29 PM on August 18, 2004

By highest they mean highest piers. Though it's not clear to me whether that measurement is referenced to the deck or to the top of the piers
posted by Mitheral at 1:03 PM on August 18, 2004


The hydraulic deck-pushing system sounds awesome... except for the part about how the deck sags like mad as it gets further out, and has to be hoisted back up to the height of the next pylon. Don't think I'd be keen on standing out there on a drooping deck a kilometer up in the air. Bleargh.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:03 PM on August 18, 2004

email from my Frenchie friend & neighbour, Bruno, who has a house in the area:
"hey quite a constuction
the main reason for the project apart from the fact
that the french love grand grand projects,
is that the car journey down that valley and up again
takes about an hour if youre lucky and up to three if
there are jams,that is going through millau the town,
which is the only route!
they could have built a road down , across and up
which avoided the town I expect but it aint quite as
a bientot
posted by dash_slot- at 6:14 PM on August 18, 2004

OK, just because I was curious: the original Bridge of Sighs.
posted by SPrintF at 7:18 PM on August 18, 2004

Not to be too pedantic, but the road level seems to be about 240 metres above ground - about 200 yards:
240 m : Hauteur de la Pile 2, la plus haute
240 m: Height of the Pile 2, highest
Don't know how or why the clouds form at that location, but it seems not to be the altitude.
posted by dash_slot- at 7:28 PM on August 18, 2004

OK, just because I am a local chauvinist: the Oxford Bridge of Sighs. (",)
posted by dash_slot- at 7:35 PM on August 18, 2004

ok, i think dash_slot got there first but what i'll mention is that if you look carefully at the first picture of the piers under construction you'll notice a road crossing the valley in a very curvy shape, i could easily believe this bridge cuts the travel time from an hour or two to ten minutes. of course building big as piers and then putting decks between them is to me not a big deal (though i'm sure the lateral loads are freakin rediculous (hopefully it's not a seismic zone)). However, the picture that TRULY has me boggled is the one with the pier of the cable stay is offset from the support pier by what looks like a few 50 meters ....which is just an incredible and unnecessary eccentricity....gah!

as for the wobbly appearnance this bridge surely has nothing to worry about in comparison to tacoma narrows. the narrows bridge was a suspension bridge built as efficiently as possible (and without wind tunnel testing), because the deck support was an 8' tall plate girder it caught allot of wind and at just the right frequency to get the bridge swinging in time ...however, this bridge's deck is reinforced concrete and must be pretty rigid to support it's self weight when cantilever a few hundred meters out. plus the deck appears to be shaped for aerodynamics, oh, and i think the cable stays are just for supporting short sections of deck (the length of a span is directly proportional to how far it swings and how quickly it swings, so the period and amplitude of the movement of the bridge will be much less). oh, and all the very valid points from cardboard (another mefi civil engineer?)
posted by NGnerd at 9:59 PM on August 18, 2004

Bridge of "wows" didn't quite do it.
posted by johnny7 at 12:20 AM on August 19, 2004

The English version wasn't that hard to find.

As for the design, the bridge was the cheapest of four options because of surrounding terrain and urbanization along the route (others would have required tunnels or major earth-moving). It's not really that much of a grandstanding move, at least not in Europe, where valley-crossing viaducts are common (especially in the Alps). Certainly the US has similarly-scaled (if less dramatically designed) highway viaducts built for such mundane reasons as keeping traffic out of industrial areas.

This is really a renaissance of bridge building, this era we're in right now. The cable-stayed bridge design was conceived as a cheaper, less-materials-intensive alternative to suspension bridges in postwar Europe, and has become the dominant bridge type in the last couple of decades for major crossings, unless a long suspension bridge is required to span a deep waterway. (And the Japanese have advanced that technology, as well, linking their major islands by highway.) Advances in concrete and composites have allowed bridges to be built ever cheaper while maintaining strength and capability. (It's not inconceivable that any particular bridge project will contain a number of unique engineering innovations, some of which may be patented.)

Meanwhile, the highest bridge over water is Egypt's Mubarak Peace Bridge over the Suez canal, whose deck is a "mere" 70m up.

NGNerd: If I'm not mistaken, that pylon is offset only because the deck hasn't been fully extended. As the deck is completed (manufacturing taking place at the grounded end of the bridge) it moves out toward the center until the pylons are resting directly above the pillars. Watch the third and fourth 3D construction animations.

Incidentally, the bridge's financing is, like many major projects today, a public-private partnership. The bridge corporation (a subsidiary of the builder, Eiffage) obtained bank loans and will theoretically recoup its costs through tolls over the next 75 years.

And the clouds? > Valley fog forms in mountain valleys during winter and can be more than 1,500 feet thick. Often, the winter sun is not strong enough to evaporate the fog during the day. When the air cools again the following night, the fog often becomes thicker, which makes it even harder for the sun to burn it off the following day. These fogs can last for several days until strong winds blow the moist air out of the valley. The tendency for cool, dense air to pool at the bottom of valleys also enhances valley fog.
posted by dhartung at 12:22 AM on August 19, 2004

Thanks for all that info dhartung. You say the english link wasn't hard to find: where is it located on the french version of the site?
posted by dash_slot- at 5:41 AM on August 19, 2004

I swear - the link you provide now displays in French!

They are toying with us! Toying, I say!
posted by dash_slot- at 5:43 AM on August 19, 2004

Just start with the bare url, it'll give flag icons to select language.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:04 AM on August 19, 2004

Was there any opposition to the bridge locally? Seems like it ruins a great view.
posted by transient at 8:56 AM on August 19, 2004

That's a really neat looking bridge.

Seems like it ruins a great view.

I'm just guessing, but since that area looks fairly agricultural, that doing it this way has significantly lower impact on the farms than the alternatives...I'm willing to bet the loss of view was worth the compromise.
posted by dejah420 at 6:22 PM on August 19, 2004

The Bronx to The Bronx bridge
posted by attackthetaxi at 3:54 AM on September 6, 2004

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