What comes to mind when you think of the largest construction projects in the world? If you guessed airports, canals, and subways, you'd be on the right track. And, of course, there are industrial complexes and utility projects. But some of the current projects that make the list might surprise you, such as the International Space Station and an entertainment park that makes Disney World look like Mickey Mouse.
Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai
No other airport would prepare you for the scale of Dubai's Al Maktoum International Airport, which extends over more than 21 square miles. The facility is designed to handle 200 wide-body aircraft at a time. The airport's second expansion phase alone has an estimated cost of more than $32 billion. Originally scheduled for completion in 2018, the latest expansion phase has been delayed, with no definite completion date.
Jubail II, Saudi Arabia
Jubail II is a 22-year-long industrial city project that began its second phase in 2014 with an $11 billion expansion budget. When completed, it will comprise at least 100 industrial plants, an 800,000-cubic-meter desalination plant, miles of railways, roads and highways, and an oil refinery producing at least 350,000 barrels per day. The entire project is slated to be finished in 2024.
A total of three Walt Disney Worlds can fit inside the Dubailand complex. At 278 sq.km in size, the $64 billion Dubailand will have six parts: theme parks, sports venues, eco-tourism, health facilities, science attractions, and hotels. It will also have the world's largest hotel, with 6,500 rooms, and a 10-million-sq.ft mall. The project is scheduled for completion in 2025.
International Space Station, Space
The International Space Station (ISS) circles the earth every 92 minutes. Created by a consortium of 15 nations and five space agencies, it has a currently scheduled construction cost that exceeds $60 billion. The eventual cost of the space station and its contemplated expansions could exceed $1 trillion, by which point it could become a habitat for up to 1 million off-planet occupants.
South-North Water Transfer Project, China
The north of China is home to almost 50 percent of China's population but has only about 20 percent of the country's water resources. To remedy this imbalance, China has funded the construction of three huge canals, each more than 600 miles long and will carry water to the north from China's three largest rivers. The project has a 48-year construction schedule. When completed, it will supply 44.8 billion cubic meters of water each year.
London Crossrail Project
The world's first underground train system continues to grow, adding 26 miles of tunnel that will eventually connect 40 stations. The estimated cost of construction is $23 billion. The project is scheduled for completion in phases, with the first new line—the Elizabeth line—expected to go into service in 2019, followed by the remaining lines.
High-Speed Railway, California
Work on California's high-speed train began in 2015 and is scheduled for completion in 2029. It will connect eight of the 10 largest cities in the state and reach from San Diego in the south to San Francisco in the north. The project will be completed in two phases: Phase 1 will connect Los Angeles to San Francisco; Phase 2 will extend connections to San Diego and Sacramento. The train will be 100-percent electric and will be powered entirely by renewable energy and capable of speeds up to 200 miles per hour.
Chuo Shinkansen, Japan
Officially called the Linear Chuo Shinkansen, Japan's newest high-speed rail line will take travelers from Tokyo to Nagoya—286 kilometers—in 40 minutes, at speeds up to 505 kilometers per hour. This leg of the high-speed journey is scheduled for completion by 2027. A later phase will extend the line to Osaka. About 86 percent of the Tokyo-Nagoya line will be underground, requiring extensive tunnel construction. This magnetic levitation (also known as "maglev") train is the fastest train in the world.
Beijing Airport, China
Beijing International Airport will eventually surpass Dubai's Al Maktoum International Airport in cost, total square miles, and passenger and plane capacity. The airport's first phase was completed in time for the 2008 Olympiad. Further expansion is scheduled for completion by 2025. Terminal 1, designed by the architect Zaha Hadid, incorporates a number of sustainable design concepts in a futuristic building envelope.
Great Man-Made River Project, Libya
Libya has been working on the "Great Man-Made River" (GMR) project since 1985. It is the largest irrigation project in the world. When completed, it will irrigate more than 350,000 acres of arable land and will substantially increase available drinking water in most of Libya's urban centers. The water source for the project is the underground Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System. The project is scheduled for completion in 2030.