10 Biggest Engineering Projects in the World
By Victoria Vogt, Science Discovery.
By Victoria Vogt, Science Discovery.
Exploring the 10 biggest engineering projects in the world is a study in enormous ideas ranging from transportation solutions to an oasis paradise in a once-barren desert. Some of these projects will take you to sub-zero temperatures, and others will transport you miles above the Earth. What they all have in common — in addition to their gigantic scope and size — are hefty price tags. And while some have yet to come to fruition (and others have been nixed on the drawing table), each of these projects will leave you in awe of what we're capable of when equipped with some tools and sheer ingenuity.
10. International Space Station
The International Space Station (ISS) is the largest manned object ever sent into space [source: Houston Public Television]. Picture two Boeing 747 airplanes next to each other, and that will give you an idea of the ISS's living and working area — 43,000 cubic feet (1,217.6 cubic meters) to be exact. In fact, it's such a large project that it will soon be visible to the naked eye from 90 percent of the Earth's surface.
Sixteen nations, numerous corporations and 100,000 people have collaborated to pull off this stellar project. The most expensive single object and the largest space station ever built, the International Space Station has already cost the United States alone $100 billion, an amount roughly equivalent to the price tag for all Apollo missions to the moon combined [Source: Boyle].
We'll return to Earth for the next project on our list.
9. Three Gorges Dam
Some say the Three Gorges Dam was China's largest engineering project since the Great Wall. The dam stretches nearly a half-mile (0.8 kilometres) high and spans a mile and a half (2.4 kilometres) wide, creating a reservoir big enough to bring massive cargo ships 1,500 miles (2,414 kilometres) inland.
A team of 20,000 workers scheduled in round-the-clock shifts constructed the Three Gorges Dam, which was completed in 2009. More than 1.5 million people relocated to make way for the construction of the dam, and 100 towns were levelled in the process. The dam's turbines were designed to generate nearly 10 percent of China's electricity supply.
After the dam's completion, China continues with its post-construction plan, which includes eco-management and helping people get settled after relocation [Source: China.org.cn].
The next project took nearly three decades to conceive.
8. Big Dig
Boston's Big Dig, one of the most complicated engineering projects in the world and the most expensive public works project in the United States, finally opened in 2003, five years behind schedule and 30 years in the making. With an original price tag of around $4 billion (figure adjusted for inflation), the Big Dig ended up costing more than $14 billion. Workers constructed the Big Dig while traffic roared overhead on Boston's main highway, Interstate 93. Giant boring machines pushed prefabricated tunnel sections below frozen earth and beneath existing underground train lines. Rearranging centuries-old gas, water, electric, phone and cable lines further complicated building a new tunnel with as many as four highway lanes in each direction. The project also included a tunnel to Logan Airport as well as a cable-stayed bridge to replace the double-decker truss bridge over the Charles River.
Admirers hail it as an architectural wonder. Ultimately, the project demolished the city's main traffic artery that for years split city down the middle, and it created a new landscape that will one day be teeming with parks and green space.
Some projects are doomed to fail before they even begin. We'll learn about one in the next project.
7. Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository
There are more than 121 sites in the United States where nuclear waste is currently being stored. While some say disturbing this waste is too dangerous, others advocate for moving it to a centralized repository. And thus, the idea for the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository was born.
Although it hasn't stored one iota of nuclear waste yet — and may never do so — the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository has already cost $9 million. The proposed storage site for all of the radioactive waste produced in U.S. nuclear power plants is a giant tunnel bored into the side of a mountain some 80 miles (128.7 kilometres) from Las Vegas. The United States has already spent $58 million planning its waste storage project.
But the Yucca Mountain project has been caught in legal and political limbo for years, and in February 2010, it died on the drawing table. The Department of Energy announced it would be withdrawing its application for a license to use the Nevada site, and the Obama administration vowed to redirect funding away from the project [Source: Mascaro].
Next up, we'll talk about a cleaner source of energy: water.
6. Dubai Canal
In terms of engineering, most things having to do with Dubai are spectacular, and the Arabian Canal is no exception. Some sources claim it will be the world's longest man-made canal, measuring 46.6 miles (75 kilometres) long.
Also known as the Dubai Canal, this waterway brings water inland to the vast desert from the Arabian Gulf. The elaborate plan includes creating a desert oasis along the entire stretch of the canal.
Another aspect of the project involves developing pristine cities and towns along the waterway, with the most attractive residential, commercial and public spaces you can imagine. The $11 billion project's gates and locks will control water flow and also provide recreational areas [Source: Arnold].
For even more about canals, read on to the next section.
5. Panama Canal
Some have called the Panama Canal the eighth wonder of the world. When it was originally built, the project entailed removing enough dirt to fill a tunnel 14 feet (4.3 meters) wide through the centre of the Earth.
In 1914, the Panama Canal changed the world by opening up trade routes from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. This shortcut through the Isthmus of Panama, only 50 miles (80.5 kilometres) at its widest point, sped up the time it took for cargo to get from New York City to San Francisco. The canal reduced travel time for some ships from 60 to 30 days, and it shortened 13,000-mile (20,921.5-kilometre) trips that required sailing around South America to 5,000-mile (8,046.7-kilometre) journeys that passed through Panama.
Now, construction has started on a new and improved Panama Canal, widening the waterway nearly double its original size.
Next up, we'll learn about another old project that's being revisited.
4. Pathway Through the Bering Strait
For more than a century, visionaries have dreamed of a bridge or tunnel that connects Europe with North America. World War I foiled Czar Nicholas II's master plan for tunnelling under the Bering Strait, but the project has regained momentum. One idea calls for a 64-mile (102.9-kilometre) tunnel running under the Bering Strait, with a price tag of $200 billion. Why a tunnel? The frigid temperatures in the area limit travel by bridge to only five months of the year, while a tunnel offers year-round passage. However, these severe weather conditions would also limit construction — work on the tunnel would only be possible four months out of the year.
Other proposals for tackling a pathway through the Bering Strait include the Trans-Global Highway, which would consist of a series of roads, tunnels and railways that connect all continents except Australia.
There's more about trans-Atlantic projects next.
3. Transatlantic Train
So, you want to have lunch in New York City and be back at the London office in about an hour? The Transatlantic Train can make it happen.
A submerged oceanic tunnel housing a supersonic train capable of speeds of up to 4,000 miles (6,437.4 kilometres) per hour can scurry passengers from the Big Apple to Big Ben in just 54 minutes. At depths of 150 to 300 feet (45.7 meters to 91.4 meters) and anchored to the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, trains will glide through this neutrally buoyant vacuum tunnel in a magnetic field, ensuring passengers a smooth ride.
Some estimates peg the project at a cost ranging from $88 billion to $175 billion — that's about $25 million to $50 million per mile (1.6 km) [Source: Hoffman].
From trains to subways, it's all about getting somewhere fast and efficiently. Read about the pride of the Big Apple next.
2. New York Subway System
Each weekday, commuters tally more than 5.2 million rides on the New York subway system, for a combined total of 1.6 billion trips annually. Today, the underground rail network operates nearly 6,500 cars on more than 700 miles (1,126.5 kilometres) of track; it's the largest subway system in the United States. As of 2007, it was ranked the fourth-largest subway system in the world.
Laid end to end, New York City Transit train tracks would stretch from New York City to Chicago [Source: MTA]. The first line of New York's subway opened on Oct. 27, 1904, and now its 26 lines and 468 stations offer service throughout the city's five boroughs. The transit system, which is owned by the City of New York and leased to a subsidiary of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
From underground to up in the air, our final project is a real pipe dream — at least for now.
1. Sky Cities
Move over, Space Needle: Here come sky cities, futuristic buildings towering above the Earth.
Theoretically, sky cities will reduce overcrowding in urban areas, and some serious architects and engineers are determined to bring fantasy to life.
In 1989, an engineering firm proposed the mixed-use tower called Sky City 1000 that would house approximately 36,000 people in residential spaces and 100,000 in its commercial spaces. A report by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) suggests that a tower similar to Sky City 1000 could open as soon as 2030 [Source: CTBUH].
Then, there's Dr. Eugene Tsui's vision of the 2-mile (3.2-kilometre) high Ultimate Tower, which would create 1.5 million square feet (1.46 million square meters) in which to house 1 million people. One sky city building has gone so far as to anticipate emergencies: Plans call for elevators that will hold approximately 70 people and fire drills that would involve 35,000 occupants.
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[Article Source: Science Discovery. Edited.]