Building a bridge in France versus US

Recently I read an article about the newest bridge in Millau, France. Everything about this bridge is out of scale. The highest point is 1,125ft (343m). That's right - its pillars are taller than the Eiffel tower! And the highway is suspended at max 885ft (270m) above the ground. The total bridge length is around 1.6 miles (2.5 Km). And, keep in mind that this is one of France's busiest roads.

The images are, needless to say, breathtaking:


But the most surprising thing was the actual cost of this amazing project. It appears to be only 394m euros. 

Now let's take a quick look to the latest proposal to improve our local SR-520 bridge. Microsofties know that I'm talking about - is that very long and useless parking lane that supposedly links Seattle with Redmond/Bellevue. Note that we are not talking about building a new bridge here - just increasing the number of lanes from existing 2 to 4 or 6. Drumroll... according to the latest proposal to the King County the cost is somewhere between 2.0 - 2.9 billion dollars.


Comments (13)

  1. Fat Cow says:

    but the builders have the right to collect a $5 toll for each passage. that adds up and offsets the cost to the public of building the bridge.

  2. Uwe Keim says:

    Maybe it is more expensive to enhance an existing item (Seattle bridge) than building an item from scratch (France bridge).

  3. T Haug says:

    A couple of different ways to look at this. First, as we have been learning over here on the east coast, that sometimes building a brand new structure is actually cheaper than a retrofit. The main reasons are that a retrofit, you have to do a lot of work to keep the roadway operational while the work is being done. That adds to the cost of both labor and equipment/materials, as well as just taking longer.

    Let us not forget, though, that another issue is the endless regulations and environmental hurdles that you need to pass through in order to get something done, anything done for that matter. This adds a lot of cost to the project as well.

    Need we mention the Big Dig in Boston?

  4. Shane says:

    I’d assume earthquake resiliancy probably affects the price as well.

  5. Scott says:

    So, is the bridge in france floating on water?

    That affects the construction just a tad.

    Plus it’s much cheaper to build something new than it is to work on an existing roadway, especially a busy one.

  6. Ian says:

    I’m constantly amazed at the cost of building in the US over the UK/Europe.

    Your Seattle roadway (which I’ve been on – and I agree, it’s a parking lot) is throwing people off with its floating issue! Go take a look at the cost of building on/off ramps in the bay area, not to mention the time it seems to take.

    Or the cost of retrofitting the Bay Bridge – it’s gone over budget by 3 BILLION. OVER. Not Total! It’s totally insane.

  7. AT says:

    Just a small quote:

    "Eiffage was one of the main builders of Terminal 2E at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport, which partially collapsed last spring, killing four people. "


  8. I believe that its a beautiful bridge that will last as long as the Brooklyn Bridge

  9. WOW! I think you did a great job. How did you do it? I just cant believe it goes higher than the clouds. Please e-mail me because I think it is awesome.

  10. matt says:

    Oh AT that was low… reeeeeeally low.

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