Thursday, 18 May 2017


These 10 Modern Megaprojects are Currently Under Construction
By Debra Kelly,
Urban Ghosts Media, 17 May 2017.

When we hear the term “megaproject,” we usually think of size. But size is just one aspect of these grand designs, and the reason for building them isn’t just human nature’s desire to do something bigger and better than the last. There’s a component of change here, too. Megaprojects are designed and built with the end goal of significantly impacting a region’s (or even an entire country’s) social climate and economy. If that sounds ambitious, it certainly is, and there exist megaprojects that have run into so many problems along the road to completion that they fell short of their original vision. This article takes a look at some of the most impressive megaprojects under construction right now. Perhaps in time they too will influence the future.

1. Lekki Port, Nigeria

Images: Louis Berger

When it’s completed - and it should be completed in 2019 - Lekki Port will connect the nations of Western Africa with the trade routes that criss-cross the South Atlantic. The project, which got underway in 2015, is overseen by China Harbor Engineering Company, one of the world’s largest maritime contractors. According to The Guardian, Lekki Port’s will cost US$1.65 billion. Once finished, it will not only provide a major point of entry for trade; it’ll also be the deepest sea port in Sub-Saharan Africa, employing 170,000 people and stabilising the flow of trade in and out of Nigeria and the surrounding countries.

Lekki Port offers a major opportunity for Nigeria and the entire region, but it hasn’t been without its difficulties. In 2016, the completion date had been pushed back, in part because of the enormous practical challenges of building such a megaproject, and also because the government decided to sell off its interests in the development. This Day Live reported on the setback, which saw the government offloading its 20 percent equity in the Lekki Port megaproject after citing a conflict of interest.

2. Second Avenue Subway, New York City, USA

Image: MTA Photos

New York City’s Second Avenue Subway is as epic as megaprojects come. When the first section opened on January 1, 2017, it was at the end of a construction process that began in 1919. According to Untapped Cities, that’s when the first mentions of the project were made, but setback after setback (including the Great Depression and two world wars) turned this ambitious megaproject into something akin to an urban legend. By the 1950s, cynical New Yorkers were coming to terms with the fact the Second Avenue Subway would never be built.

The stretch of subway that opened in 2017 is only the end of Phase 1 of construction, and with a budget of US$1.7 billion per kilometre of track, the cost is nothing short of mind-boggling. According to The New Yorker, once Phase 2 gets underway, that cost is going to rise even higher to approach US$2.2 billion per kilometre. Phases 3 and 4? Time we’ll tell. AM New York reports that there’s currently US$1 billion budgeted for the early stages of Phase 2, which covers design and determining what problems will be posed by utilities already in place.

3. California High-Speed Rail, USA


In 2008, the state of California voted to give the go-ahead to a US$40 billion megaproject that would see a high-speed trail system built to connect San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose, Bakersfield, Fresno, San Bernardino, Anaheim, and San Diego. By 2016, the projected cost had risen to US$64 billion and Phase 1 was slated for completion in 2029. But obstacles have been plenty. According to The Mercury News, among the biggest include securing federal funding for the conversion of existing engines from diesel to electric, and further problems of ensuring all aspects of the plan fall within the guidelines established by a new presidential administration.

As a result, completion of the first few miles of track has been pushed back from 2017 to 2019. While passengers will be able to travel between cities in a fraction of the time, that time doesn’t come cheap. The average ticket price to travel from south to north is expected to be around US$86. Even when carrying 10,000 passengers a day, it’ll take the megaproject more than 203 years to break even, not including continued costs for upgrades and maintenance.

4. Songdo International Business District, South Korea

Image: Fleetham

Calling it the Songdo International Business District, or Songdo IBD, is something of a misnomer. This megaproject is much more than the business parks that might spring to mind. Located to the south of Seoul, it’s designed to be South Korea’s new smart city of the future. According to NPR and their interview with visionary Park Yeon Soo, the project was conceptualised in 1986 and has yet to meet his expectations.

Much of the infrastructure is in place, like a high-tech trash disposal system and a host of environmentally friendly buildings. By 2015, around 126,000 people were living there. But Park, and some residents, believed there was something missing - even though the Songdo International Business District was already home to South Korea’s tallest building, the Northeast Asia Trade Tower, and is the second city in the world where every building is LEED certified. That’s just part of what it means to be a smart city. The megaproject, which is still under construction, boasts widely available charging stations for electric cars, 40 percent green space, and land reserved for bike paths and walkways. Utopia? Perhaps.

5. Great Mosque of Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Image: XXXshatha

The Great Mosque of Mecca certainly isn’t a new structure; it’s been a central structure of the entire Islamic world for centuries. The giant mosque is a place of worship and of pilgrimage, and in 2007 King Abdullah Ibn Abdulaziz launched an ambitious project to renovate the site and increase its capacity to nearly two million people. When his successor took the reigns in 2015, plans for renovating the mosque continued, and by 2016 an estimated US$100 billion had been poured into the Saudi megaproject.

Five projects were announced at the Grand Mosque of Mecca in 2015, including the construction of 78 new gates and a building expansion that covers 1.47 million square meters. Plans to add a metro system and high-speed rail line are also in the works, not to mention the additional infrastructure needed to support such a massive endeavour. New roads, service and security buildings, a hospital, and a series of parks will all be built, and according to the Saudi-US Relations Information Service, the expansion megaproject is the largest ever undertaken at the site.

6. The Tower at Dubai Creek Harbour (and The Jeddah Tower)

Dubai is an engineering marvel in itself, and it’s probably no great surprise that the city has another potentially record-breaking megaproject in the works. If all goes according to plan, The Tower at Dubai Creek Harbour will open in time for the Dubai World Expo in 2020, and it could end up being the tallest building in the world. However, the US$1 billion potential record-breaker at Dubai Creek Harbour is going up at the same time as another megaproject, which could also win the title - Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah Tower. CNN reports that The Tower was planned to open in 2018, and completion has already been pushed back twice. Which skyscraper opens its doors first remains to be seen.

The Tower at Dubai Creek Harbour megaproject has been envisioned mostly as an observation structure, incorporating around 18 to 20 floors of restaurants, a hotel, shops, and gardens. The megaproject is expected to reach around 3,045 feet in height. The Jeddah Tower will top that at a planned height of 3,280 feet. According to The Telegraph its 200 floors will be filled with apartments, offices, a 200-room hotel, and the world’s highest observatory.

7. Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, USA


This American megaproject is nearing completion, which is a good thing - the Mercedes-Benz Stadium is set to accommodate the Atlanta Falcons for the 2017-2018 football season. It’s also poised to host the 2019 Super Bowl. The first mention of this super-stadium came in 2010, when it was reported that the Falcons were in talks to demolish their long-time home, the Georgia Dome. If they were ever going to host the Super Bowl again - or a FIFA World Cup - they needed the biggest and the best. The Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a US$1.6 billion construction effort that will include a retractable glass wall and 8-panel roof inspired by the Roman Pantheon, circular LED displays, a 100-yard bar, open-air lounges, private suites, an open concourse, and panels that can be lowered into place for smaller events.

The Falcons announced their pricing schemes in 2015 and attending a game won’t come cheap. Personal seat licenses - which entitle a person the right to buy tickets for a particular seat for an entire season - will run someone around US$45,000 per seat, while the most expensive one-time tickets will cost up to US$385 (in addition to the seat license). That’s the high end of the spectrum, but just how that’s going to impact the majority of football fans remains to be seen.

8. Hudson Yards, Manhattan, NYC, USA

Image: Jim.henderson

In 2016, Forbes checked out one of New York City’s newest megaprojects, the 28-acre Hudson Yards development. Developers called it a city within a city. At the time, its first building was opening its doors for anchor tenant Coach, the luxury handbag retailer. Other tenants included the likes of L’Oreal USA and German software group SAP, all poised to take up residency within the development, which is expected to cost in the region of US$12 billion when completed.

By the time Hudson Yards is completed, the megaproject will boast more than a million square feet of retail space, and 18 million square feet of residential and commercial space, all of which will come at a premium. Units in the condo tower at 15 Hudson Yards went on the market in September 2016, and were 25 percent sold by January 2017. Prices are steep, and a three-bedroom apartment would set residents back US$10 million. According to Inc., the entire development was designed with an eye toward the future - and pleasing millennials. Sustainability, connectivity, plenty of mixed-use space and flexibility were key. The Hudson Yards is a New York megaproject marketing itself as the new Manhattan.

9. Barcelona Metro Line 9, Spain

Image: Javierito92

Like many megaprojects, the construction timeline of Barcelona’s Metro Line 9 hasn’t gone according to plan. It was supposed to be completed by 2008, and while stations and sections of the underground project have slowly opened over the years, a number of stations remain under construction. The automated train line was designed with two branches connecting vital areas of the city and, according to Railway Technology, it will be the longest automated metro line in Europe when it’s finally finished.

Plans were put in place for 47.8 kilometres of track connecting 50 stations, and construction started back in 2002. Estimates suggested the new line would see about 250,000 passengers each day. But like other vast megaprojects, the costs are equally enormous. When Barcelona’s Metro Line 9 finally opens, it’s estimated that the epic transport project will have cost in the region of US$8.4 billion.

10. Noord-Zuidlijn (North-South Line), Amsterdam, Netherlands

Image: Mojito

I Am Amsterdam has taken a look not only at the recent construction of Amsterdam’s metro (which only began in 1977), but those areas of the city that had been without stations for decades. The North-South metro line was going to remedy that, and construction began in 2003. Even though work was commenced in several locations at once, the Netherlands city’s swampy location hasn’t helped move things along at the fast pace that builders and planners had intended.

Last year Dutch News reported that the new Noord-Zuidlijn’s opening date had been delayed further, to July 2018. Costs have risen from around 1.4 billion Euros to 3.1 billion Euros, and the North-South Line megaproject has reportedly been plagued with problems from contractor bankruptcy to software issues.

[Source: Urban Ghosts Media.]

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