KW: biggest construction projects
Many states in the U.S. have taken on ambitious building projects with total costs far exceeding budgets and projections. Some of these public works projects have been canceled. Others have provided far less return on investment than supporters had hoped, costing taxpayers billions of dollars and becoming boondoggles in the process.
Click through to see the top 20 biggest boondoggles that have wasted the resources, efforts and money of U.S. workers and taxpayers.
[several of these projects are ongoing, so the numbers are "so far," and total costs for projects that ended have not been adjusted for inflation]
20. Missouri’s Pruitt-Igoe Housing Projects: $36 Million
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Known as one of the most infamous housing projects in America, the Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project in St. Louis was intended to revitalize the city during rough times and replace housing in areas that had become slums. It consisted of 33 towers of 11 stories each on 57 acres of land.
Touted as a modernization project and built using federal funds as part of the 1949 Housing Act, the buildings' maintenance fees were paid by tenants, who in the 1950s had a median income of $2,718. High rates of crime combined with a decrease in occupancy — and therefore rent income — led to its demise.
Built in 1954, it was destroyed less than 20 years later in 1972.
19. Alaska’s 'Road to Nowhere': $81.5 Million
Credit: Peter Leahy / Shutterstock.com
KW: alaska road to nowhere
The “Road to Nowhere” is a proposed 38-mile gravel road with 11 miles cutting through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, a protected wilderness area. The reason given for building the road was to give King Cove access to an all-weather airport in neighboring Cold Bay so that fresh fish could be shipped quicker and residents of King Cove would have a way to get to a hospital in Anchorage.
In 1998, taxpayers invested $37.5 million to overhaul King Cove’s health clinic with the understanding that the road would therefore not be built.
Senator Lisa Murkowski is proposing to build the road once again, saying it’s necessary for medical evacuations. As of now, only 3.2 miles of the road have been constructed.
Why the controversy? Several facts point to salmon canneries in King Cove wanting to ship their seafood quickly overseas, and these companies need access to the airport for that. The Wilderness Society reported that the total Federal cost would be $75.8 million, nearly $80,000 per resident of King Cove.
18. Oregon’s Columbia River Crossing: $190 Million
KW: oregon washington interstate bridge
The Columbia River Crossing was a project involving both Oregon and Washington, with the goal of improving Interstate 5 where it crosses the Columbia River. A project mired in politics, it came under attack from elements on both the left and right for reasons ranging from a light rail being added onto the project to environmental concerns.
The project was shut down on May 31, 2013 after the state of Washington backed out of its part of the project. Almost $190 million worth of work was done before the cancellation. Initial estimates were around $2.8 billion to complete the work, but later estimates by opponents of the project were as high as $10 billion.
17. Maryland’s Baltimore Sewer System: $1.1 Billion
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Baltimore is reportedly spending $1.1 billion to fix its leaky sewer system. The project began in 2002, with $700 million being poured into it over the years. Now, the city wants to spend an additional $400 million because problems have continued to arise, such as raw human waste leaking into streams and the city's harbor, according to the Baltimore Sun.
So far, 85 miles of sewer lines have been fixed, but that doesn't cover the entire breadth of the project. Some repairs aren’t scheduled for completion until 2018, and one major repair that could make the biggest impact on the city’s sewer system hasn't even begun.
To help pay for the project, water and sewer rates have been raised. Residents are skeptical — they’ve been waiting 13 years for the city to make more progress and don’t want the project to continue on for another 15 years. To make matters worse, the city might be underreporting overflows. It has been involved in settlement discussions with the Environmental Protection Agency.
16. Ohio’s Inner Belt Bridges and Portsmouth Bypass: $1.2 Billion
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KW: ohio inner belt bridge
The Inner Belt Bridges and Portsmouth Bypass are a series of construction efforts in Cleveland and Scioto County, Ohio.
The bridges are meant to replace the old Innerbelt Bridge that was built in the 1950s. The bridge intended to carry westbound traffic began construction in 2011 and was completed in November 2013. Construction on the eastbound bridge is expected to be completed in late 2016. The westbound bridge cost $293 million, while the eastbound bridge is expected to cost around $330 million.
The state of Ohio has also started work on a bypass around the city of Portsmouth that stretches for 16 miles. The original projected cost of this bypass was $429 million, but the figure has since risen to $1.2 billion.
The work is being paid for in part by a controversial new system in which public entities work with private organizations, with the state paying back the private groups over time. Some residents are also concerned that the bypass will hurt the city economically because the state's population growth has plateaued.
15. Hawaii’s Interstate H-3: $1.3 Billion
KW: hawaii h-3 interstate
The H-3 highway in Hawaii was completed in 1997. It is 16 miles long and runs from the Pearl Harbor Naval Base to the Marine Corps Base Hawaii on eastern Oahu.
The order for the highway’s construction came in 1960, but construction didn’t begin until the late 1980s. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the original estimate for the project was $250 million. The final price tag however, was $1.3 billion, making H-3 the most expensive highway per-mile in the country.
Part of the highway tunnels through the Ko'olau Mountains, and the highway includes a traffic operations center that controls and monitors cameras, smoke and carbon dioxide detectors, and equipment that can be used to override AM/FM radios to transmit voice messages to cars passing through.
Before construction began, there were several protests about the environmental impact and damage to sites culturally significant to Hawaii natives.
14. Connecticut’s I-95 and Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge Projects: $2 Billion
https://www.flickr.com/photos/versageek/4807110451/ [Note: Crop right side to focus mainly on the bridge.]
Credit: versageek / Flickr
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The rebuilding of I-95 started in 2000, and the replacement of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge began in 2009.
The bridge is a key component of the $2 billion interstate highway project to reconstruct and widen I-95 on the 13-mile stretch between West Haven and Branford, Conn. The original projected costs were $800 million.
When revisited in 2007, the costs had increased to $1.36 billion for I-95 and $417 million for the bridge. The initial proposal included a plan for tolls, but opposition forced those plans to be abandoned.
Construction for the bridge was originally supposed to span from 2005 to 2012. Complications arose when two historic structures, Fitch Foundry and the former Yale Boathouse, were found to be directly in the path of the proposed expansion. The City of New Haven and the Federal Highway Administration agreed that a $37 million replica of the boathouse would be built.
As of October 2015, three southbound lanes are open to traffic, and two more are set to complete by the end of the year. The rebuilding of I-95 should be completed by 2018.
13. Idaho’s Teton Dam: $2 Billion
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The Teton Dam near Rexburg, Idaho, failed on June 5, 1976. The disaster struck as the dam’s reservoir was being filled for the first time and caused the deaths of 11 people and thousands of livestock. Estimated damages ranged as high as $2 billion dollars as multiple towns were severely impacted.
Plans for the Teton Dam began in 1932. Construction officially started in February 1972 and ended in June 1976. The idea of rebuilding the dam came up in 2008 but was rejected by both local residents and federal officials that would have to invest in the $492 million project.
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12. New Jersey’s Revel Casino: $2.4 Billion
KW: new jersey revel casino
Revel Casino cost $2.4 billion to build and was sold n 2015 for just $82 million after going bankrupt twice and operating for a little over two years. It never turned a profit, according to Business Insider.
Plans for the casino began in September 2007. A look back at its history makes it seem like it was destined for failure from the start. Executives of Revel Entertainment were killed in a plane crash in 2008, and in 2010, Morgan Stanley pulled the plug to take a $932 million loss instead of spending another $1 billion on the project.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie reported that Revel secured the conditional financing it needed in 2011 and signed onto the project in hopes of reviving Atlantic City. Unfortunately, Revel was never profitable enough to secure the aid provided by the state.
Even after the 2015 sale, the future of the casino remains unknown.
11. Indiana’s Marble Hill Nuclear Power Plant: $2.8 Billion
KW: indiana marble hill nuclear power plant
The Marble Hill Nuclear Power Plant is an unfinished nuclear plant in Jefferson County, Ind., which is less than an hour away from Louisville, Ky. Construction began in 1977 and ended in 1984 when the Public Service Company of Indiana abandoned it.
At the time, it was the most expensive nuclear project ever abandoned, with over $2.8 billion having been spent on it. The reasons cited for the abandonment were increasing construction costs and insufficient funding for future improvements.
The Public Service Company of Indiana had to ask for a rate hike and a reduction in stockholder dividends to maintain their operations after abandoning the plant, according to The New York Times. They also sold off equipment from the site, saying they hoped to recoup 15 to 25 percent of the value of what they were able to sell.
10. Washington’s Big Bertha $3.1 Billion
Credit: [Double-check] this:
Washington State Dept of Transportation / Flickr
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Bertha, a tunneling machine enabling the replacement of an above-ground highway in Seattle, is the largest machine of its type. The highway the tunnel is meant to replace the SR 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct, allowing access from nearby CenturyLink Field, home of the Seahawks, to a point not far from Seattle’s iconic Space Needle.
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Tunneling began in June 2013, with an original opening day estimate set for November 2015. Concerns of instability have plagued the project since a 2001 earthquake caused cracks to appear along the original highway, according to The New York Times. Before work began, politicians from both the local and state levels argued against the project. They predicted issues with the tunnel, and now there is uncertainty over who will pay for the cost overruns associated with the project.
Seattle Tunnel Partners, the contractors in charge of the project, are still working on completing the tunnel and have taken to releasing frequent updates as the situation evolves. The original project budget was set at $3.1 billion, but costs of completing the project are uncertain.
9. Maryland’s Route 200 'Intercounty Connector': $4 Billion
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KW: maryland route 200 intercounty connector
Amid much hype from politicians, the first portion of the Intercounty Connector (ICC) opened in 2011. The 18.8-mile highway was initially supposed to cost $1 billion.
Projected costs are now $2.4 billion to $4 billion if you include interest. Tolls on other major Maryland highways have been raised to compensate for the increase in cost, as the ICC has been light on traffic.
Critics have cited the $180 million that has come out of the state’s Transportation Trust Fund to pay bondholders as an example of why the ICC was a mistake, saying the funds could have been used to improve the other transit systems within the city, according to Bethesda Magazine.
Future federal funds are already committed to paying back bondholders, and an increase in gasoline tax has been enacted to increase available funds.
The ICC was supposed to lessen the traffic burden felt on other major highways nearby in the District of Columbia, but the tolls have turned commuters off. They don’t see the sense in taking the ICC to save a mere 20 minutes of drive time when cheaper alternatives are available.
8. Tennessee’s Watts Bar Nuclear Plant: $4 Billion
https://www.flickr.com/photos/martinpro/5873090070/ [Note: Crop out red-roofed building on far right and some off the bottom so focus is on the nuclear plant's cooling towers.]
Credit: Martin Prochnik / Flickr
KW: tennessee watts bar nuclear power plant
The Watts Bar nuclear power plant in Tennessee is operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which announced plans to construct 17 reactors in the region in 1966. The plans for nearly half of those reactors were canceled by 1985.
Construction on the first reactor began in 1973, but it didn't begin operating until 1996. The second reactor is set to begin operating in 2016.
Progress was halted at both reactors in 1985 due to concerns about the quality of the construction. Work resumed on the first reactor in 1995, but the second unit remained dormant. Some of its parts were cannibalized for other projects.
The TVA took another look at finishing the second reactor’s construction in 2007. The initial estimate for the project was $2.5 billion. Costs are now expected to be in excess of $4 billion, according to The New York Times.
Testing is being completed as construction wraps up at the second reactor, which should go into operation on schedule, according to the Times Free Press.
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7. Alabama’s Northern Beltline: $5.4 Billion
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Maintained by the Alabama Department of Transportation, the Northern Beltline is a 52-mile long highway with six lanes. Approximately $5.4 billion is being poured into this project to make regions in Birmingham more accessible. The roadway is also expected to help lessen the burden of traffic. All funds are being provided by the federal government at this time.
Construction began in February 2014, and according to the project's official website, the first phase of the project will be completed in the fall of 2016. The entire project is estimated to be finished by 2054.
The main controversy behind this project is the long timeline and the fact that other projects are being pushed aside as this one is prioritized. Residents feel that 35 years is excessive. According to the website, “Congress has designated the Birmingham Northern Beltline as a national priority, and the [Appalachian Development] funds cannot be used on another project.”
The latest update as of October 2015 from AL.com reported steady progress being made on the first phase of the project.
6. Colorado's Denver FasTracks: $5.5 Billion
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FasTracks was a voter-approved initiative passed in 2004 that includes 122 miles of commuter rail and light rail tracks, as well as 18 miles of bus rapid transit, across eight counties in the metro Denver area of Colorado. With 57 new stations being added, this is the largest passenger rail expansion project in America.
Unfortunately, there isn't enough funding to complete the project as originally promised. About $5.5 billion has been invested so far, but the heavy-rail line that was supposed to be built for Broomfield, Louisville, Lafayette, Boulder and Longmont is projected to cost over $1 billion. The funding might not be available until 2040, according to Colorail.org.
As a solution, the RTD has made the decision to devote funds to buses rather than ask voters for an increase in taxes. Residents in the areas listed above are unhappy that the plan for the rail system is uncertain.
5. Texas’ Superconducting Super Collider: $11 Billion
The superconducting supercollider, set to be constructed in Texas, never saw its first experiment.
In 2012, the Higgs Boson, a particle long predicted by modern physicists, had finally been observed at a supercollider in Switzerland. A massive project had already been in the works to build a supercollider in Texas. It would have been capable of generating 20 times more energy than any machine at the time, and it would have had five times the energy of today's collisions at the Large Hadron Collider, according to Scientific American.
It was designed in the early 1980s and approved in 1987. The original estimated cost was $4.4 billion, but by 1993, that figure had increased to at least $11 billion. Congress canceled the project on Oct. 21, 1993. Only around 20 percent of the total work had been completed.
A later investigation by the Department of Energy revealed that many costs associated with the project were not included in the original estimate. Further, a proper system to manage the cost and scheduling was never implemented.
4. Massachusetts’ Big Dig: $14.5 Billion
https://www.flickr.com/photos/martinobrien/31278539/ [Note: Crop some off the right and top.]
Credit: Martin & Jessica O'Brien / Flickr
KW: massachusetts big dig
The Big Dig is recognized as the largest, most complex and technologically challenging highway project in the history of the U.S., according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Initial estimates were around $2.6 billion, but when it was completed, the final cost, according to Boston.com, ended up being $14.5 billion. Boston.com also reported that interest from the project could cost another $10 billion.
Though projected to be finished by 1998, work was not completed until January 2006. That summer, there was a collapse in one of the tunnels, leading to around $450 million in payouts to settle lawsuits from various contractors involved in the construction.
According to the Massachusetts DOT, the project has significantly reduced traffic congestion in Boston.
3. New York’s Second Avenue Subway: $20 Billion
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KW: new york city second avenue subway
This Second Avenue subway is sorely needed in New York City, with nearby lines filled to capacity during rush hour. The Second Avenue subway line has been in the works since the 1920s. The plan finally started gaining traction in the mid 2000s, and the first phase began construction in 2007. This phase alone is projected to cost $4.45 billion and is set to complete in 2016.
As of May 2015, Phase 1 is 82 percent done. Nothing past the first phase has dedicated funding, and there are no timelines as to when additional phases will be completed. The MTA has a $32 billion budget to improve transit, and $1.5 billion could be used to begin planning for the second phase, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The total estimated cost is $20 billion to as much as $2.23 billion per mile, which is far beyond what similar projects around the world have cost, according to CityLab.com. It’s not clear how the rest of the project will receive funding at this time.
2. Nevada’s Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository: $38 Billion
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The Yucca Mountain area was selected as a possible site for creating a nuclear waste repository in 1987. Construction began despite objections from Nevada residents.
In 2010, under pressure from Nevada Senator Harry Reid, the Obama administration led the Department of Energy to shut down the project by nixing the licensing process, according to Forbes. Political and engineering concerns over the project continue.
The government initally spent $15 billion on the Yucca Mountain site by 2013, but the largest projected cost will be the $23 billion in debts owed to nuclear power utilities.
The government promised to start collecting nuclear waste in 1998, a service the nuclear power utilities paid for but never received. Since the collection hasn’t occurred, nuclear power plants have had to find alternative waste storage solutions. Most have stored their waste at their plants, a practice that carries its own safety concerns and inefficiencies.
1. California’s High-Speed Rail: $68 Billion
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Southern California is known for its horrendous traffic. A proposed bullet train seeks to solve that problem. The trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco that normally takes six hours by car could take less than three hours on the 220-mph train.
Future plans involve expanding the number of stations to San Diego and Sacramento, allowing residents to travel in between cities for their jobs. It sounds like a dream come true for many Californians, but this high-speed rail might not be going anywhere.
Construction on the first 29 miles began in January 2015, seven years after a $10 billion bond package was approved by voters. The initial projected cost of $33 billion has turned into $68 billion, making it the most expensive public works project in the U.S., according to TheWeek.com.
An initial $10 billion bond package was approved in 2008 to help fund construction of the train by 2029. Lawsuits over land use filed by farmers and residents near the proposed rail's pathway and environmentalists have delayed the project.
As of February 2015, only $26 billion of funding was accounted for, and private investors remain the project’s main hope. Those in opposition of the train are trying to get 500,000 signatures to cancel the project.
This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 20 Biggest Boondoggles in the U.S.