REPORTAGE The deck of the Millau viaduct is getting a makeover, 18 years after it was put into service. Until mid-October, the asphalt of the motorway benefits from special works.
The pace is slow and steady. The gestures are precise, the words rare. Everyone is in their place, knows what to do. On September 15, on the apron of the Millau viaduct in the north-south direction, the incessant ballet of vehicles launched at 130 km/h gave way to the inexorable advance of construction machines. In the incessant mechanical hubbub, coupled with tangible heat, the workers pour the asphalt on the ground. On the program for the day, a kilometer of motorway to be redone. To do this, 33 28-tonne trucks, coming straight from Saint-Thibéry, will be needed to supply the graders with asphalt. The latter comes out of the machine at 180° and is scrutinized by the professionals, who spot the slightest roughness.
“Then place the steamrollers, details Eric Laporte, technician in charge of infrastructure monitoring for the viaduct. They must make 12 passes over an area to completely flatten it. “If around thirty people are hard at work on the apron, others provide remote control via surveillance cameras. “They are responsible for checking that the temperature does not rise too much on one side of the deck to avoid unilateral expansion,” continues Eric Laporte.
Several stages in the work
Before moving on to laying the asphalt, the workers from Eiffage route, which won the job, first carried out essential steps: planing the existing asphalt over 3 cm, shot-blasting and sanding, then laying the the sealing sheet. After the north-south direction, it is now the section that connects Béziers to Clermont-Ferrand to be repaired. Traffic is therefore, until October 12, two-way on the renovated side of the viaduct deck.
This is the first time in 18 years that work has taken place to redo part of the asphalt. A layer of 3 cm was removed from the bitumen and a brand new mix, with special characteristics, was poured to the same depth. “It’s not the same as on the roads, this asphalt must resist extreme heat and cold peaks, it must allow the deck to expand,” explains the Eiffage technician. If no cost has been communicated, the site, titanic in the image of the building, would amount to millions of euros. The total reopening of the traffic lanes on the Millau viaduct is scheduled for mid-October. In the spring, work will resume to give, this time, a second life to the cornices located to the right of the hard shoulder. “From March to the end of June, all the corroded elements will be taken back,” continues Eric Laporte. This is a project that will last until 2024, to interfere with traffic as little as possible. After nearly 20 years of existence, the Millau viaduct is getting a well-deserved makeover.
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