The Top 10 Most Expensive Construction Projects in the World

Money has enabled humans to design, build and move things at incredible speeds. If we look back to projects such as the Eiffel Tower, which wowed at the time, they now seem a little futile compared to the skyscrapers and construction creations of today.

If something seems impossible, it is likely that mankind will try and conquer it. We have already done amazing things, such as building a tunnel under the English Channel, and flying to the moon, and here are the top ten expensive yet fascinating projects in the history of mankind:


10. The Channel Tunnel, $22.4 billion

The underground Channel Tunnel (also known as the Chunnel) stretches 31.4 miles between the southern coast of England and the northern coast of France, underneath the English Channel. It features three tunnels, two for freight/passenger traffic, and one for security use.

Fifteen French and British companies privately financed the $22.4 billion project, which exceeded original expectations by 80% due to escalating demands for safety, security, and environmental measures.

Tunnel boring machines began excavating for the projects in 1988 and the tunnel began operating in 1994. Ten workers tragically died during the construction phase.

The Chunnel boasts the longest undersea portion of any tunnel in the world, and was recognised by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the “Seven Wonders of the Modern World”.


9. The Big Dig, $23.1 billion

The Big Dig project had to do with rerouting some major highways in the Boston area, and cost taxpayers an estimated $23.1 billion.

Planning began in 1982, and the construction work was carried out between 1991 and 2006; and the project concluded on December 31, 2007, over ten years behind schedule, and costing millions of dollars more than expected.

The Big Dig was the most expensive highway project in the US, and was plagued by cost overruns, delays, leaks, design flaws, charges of poor execution and use of substandard materials, criminal arrests, and one tragic death.


8. Apollo Space Program, $25.4 billion

The Apollo space program, including the 1969 moon landing by the Apollo 11 Lunar Module came to $25.4 billion, and remains one of humanities greatest technological achievements.

This decision involved much study and review prior to making it public, and tremendous expenditure and effort to make it a reality by 1969.

It was finally successfully accomplished on 20 July 1969, when Apollo 11’s astronaut Neil Armstrong left the Lunar Module and set foot on the surface of the Moon.


7. Kensai International Airport, $29 billion

Located in Osaka, Japan’s second largest city, is the Kansai International Airport which cost $29 billion to make. Planning for the new airport commenced in the 1960s when city officials became concerned about losing trade to Tokyo.

It was built in the water, resting on a man-made island in order to resist earthquakes, tidal waves, and noise complaints. The airport was built to resist these kind of freak accidents, and has withstood both typhoons and earthquakes successfully since it was built.

Part of the price tag went towards metal support columns and other structural pieces, in order to prevent it from sinking. A second terminal was added in 2012, and is connected via a free shuttle to Terminal 1.


6. California High Speed Rail, $33 billion+

Work on the California High Speed Rail started in 2015, and phase 1 is set to be completed by 2029. It is already way over its original budget, and is tipped to reach $98.5 billion.

The first phase is planned to run between Madera and Bakersfield, and was one of President Obama’s first-term pledges, to connect the major US cities by high-speed rail.

The high speed ‘bullet train’ will stretch between San Francisco and Los Angeles, with rails that can support travel up to 220 mph.


5. Dubailand, $76 billion+

When Dubailand was announced in 2003, it was one of the most ambitious leisure developments ever proposed anywhere in the world. It is not even complete and is already one of the most expensive projects in history.

The reason behind Dubailand was that some thought Dubai needed a major attraction geared towards families. There are design aspects based on Arabian Folklore, and plans for a Disney theme park, an IMAX theatre and many other attractions.

Construction was halted on this project in 2008, due to financial crisis, and resumed in 2013; Current estimates predict that Dubailand will open before 2020.


4. King Abdullah Economic City, $95 billion

Construction of the Saudi Arabian city started is expected to be finished in 2020, yet in 2015, only 15 percent had been completed. Named after the late King Abdullah, the city will be slightly larger than Washington D.C. and will house 2 million residents.

Located over an hour away from Mecca, the city is set to become a new tourist attraction for Saudi Arabia, and will boast high class hotels, luxury villas, prestigious universities, and a massive airport. It will also be home to residential neighbourhoods, with a hope of diversifying the region’s economies.

The project is being built by real estate group Emaar Properties, who are known for building Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest building.


3. Kashagan Fields, $116 billion

The largest oil discovery in the past 40 years led to the Kashagan Fields, located in the Caspian Sea, and commercial production began in September 2013.

Part of the construction includes building man-made islands in a sea frozen for large periods of time. Leaks in pipes and other difficulties have caused delays in construction of the project, and the fields are under high pressure making drilling into them very dangerous.

The operation is expected to start during 2017 and to produce over 90,000 barrels of oil per day. Experts estimate the production yield to total as much as 13 billion barrels of retrievable oil.


2. The International Space Station, $150 billion

The ISS orbits Earth and enables scientists to conduct experiments in astronomy, biology, and physics. Built in 1994 on Earth and assembled in space, fourteen countries worked together to complete this project.

The main tools used were Russian rockets and the space shuttle, and the station was not inhabited until two years into construction, when the Russian module Zvezda was added containing pressurising equipment and sleeping quarters.

After 26 years of service, the ISS, one of the most expensive projects in history is to be crashed into the ocean in 2020.


1. The Interstate Highway System, $459 billion

The most expensive project in the history of mankind, the Interstate Highway System in America connects more than 47,000 miles and took almost 35 years to complete.

The project involved created new routes and converting old ones, to serve as ‘interstates’, and has cost the taxpayer a huge $459 billion.

Work began in 1955 after President Dwidght D. Eisenhower proposed the project as being crucial for national defence and to help mobilise infantry in an emergency. Thanks to the project, travel for both citizens and the military has been improved, and there are more accessible routes in case of war.

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