Engineering Marvels: 10 of the World’s Most Expensive Construction Projects

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Big, expensive construction projects aren’t a new phenomenon. They typically improve the infrastructure, environment, and economies of the regions they are built in. Since the start of the 21st century, the world has experienced numerous significant developments with costs that run into millions and even billions of dollars. While their usage spans the spectrum, these manufactured marvels are awe-inspiring.

1. Kashagan Fields

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Located off the shore of Kazakhstan, the Kashagan Fields represent the most extensive oil discovery of the last several decades. The $116 billion multinational development partners with some of the world’s largest oil producers, generating thousands of barrels of oil and millions of cubic feet of natural gas daily.

2. King Abdullah Economic City

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Established in 2005, the $86 billion King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia is a special economic zone designed to be a hub for the logistics and manufacturing industries. The 71-square-mile region currently houses more than 100 Saudi and transnational companies and has a population of approximately 7,000 people.

3. Dubailand

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The unfinished development launched in 2003 was supposed to be a family-friendly entertainment center in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, including a Disney theme park. The $76 billion project was halted in 2008 due to the global economic crisis. The venture resumed in 2013, but there hasn’t been any activity since then, so it’s likely shelved permanently.

4. Songdo International Business District

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Also informally called Songdo, this South Korean area outside of Seoul is a futuristic smart city with residential and commercial properties and schools with built-in computers. Even the streets are computerized. In addition to being green building certified, the $40 billion district with a population of around 170,000 includes replicas of Venetian waterways and New York City’s Central Park.

5. California High-Speed Rail

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With a well-earned reputation for gridlocked highways, a high-speed railway transportation option is welcomed across the state. This $33 billion project has been in progress since 2015, with the first phase slated to be finished by 2029. While it will initially service California, eventually, the rail will have the capacity to offer service to other major cities in the United States.

6. Beijing Daxing International Airport

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Known as the starfish because of its shape, the $25 billion airport, with seven runways and seven and a half million square feet of space, can facilitate the travel of 100 million passengers annually. The airport also includes a subway and an intercity rail service. As one of only two airports servicing Beijing, this airport is an important travel hub.

7. Gotthard Base Tunnel

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This railway tunnel runs through the Alps mountain range in Switzerland. It offers freight and passenger transit services from Zurich, Switzerland, to Milan, Italy. Opening in 2015 after 20 years of construction, the $23 billion rail system transports thousands of passengers daily.

8. Panama Canal Expansion

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The original canal, constructed in 1904, proved inadequate to handle the increased traffic and larger ship sizes of the modern era. In 2007, construction started to increase the canal’s capacity by twofold. The new structure allows ships to travel through three times the size of earlier barges. The newly reconfigured waterway reopened in 2016 with a price tag of $5.3 billion.

9. Marmaray Tunnel

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An underwater railway tunnel connecting the European and Asian areas of Istanbul, Turkey, it is also the deepest undersea tube-style tunnel in the world. The $4.5 billion earthquake-proof tunnel was built in 2004 and opened in 2013. The Marmaray Tunnel carries hundreds of thousands of passengers each day.

10. One World Trade Center

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After the destruction of the World Trade Center complex in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, there was some question about when and if the structures would be rebuilt. The main building of the complex, One World Trade Center, is a 1,776-foot tall building that costs $3.8 billion. When you consider the significance of the landmark, the dollar amount is well worth it.

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