The United States is no stranger to megaprojects. In America, these billion-dollar projects span nearly every industry, from rail, transit, and infrastructure to aerospace, energy, and science. Projects of this scale are often approved via voting by the population or its representatives in order to proceed, and some can be controversial in nature.
In the past, the main theme behind many American megaprojects was expansion. Now they are more about sustainable enrichment– echoing the question “Will the project sustainably lead to progress that enriches lives?”.
5 Mega Projects Currently In Progress in the US
1.) California High-Speed Rail (California, USA; Rail)
As the first high-speed rail project in the United States, the California High-Speed Rail megaproject is underway to complete 119 miles of construction in the Central Valley that will connect 6 of the 10 largest cities in California. Once finished, Phase 1 of the megaproject will connect San Francisco to San Jose to Merced to Fresno to Bakersfield to Palmdale to Burbank to Los Angeles to Anaheim. Phase 2 will connect Sacramento to Merced, and Los Angeles to San Diego.
Los Angeles, San Francisco and San José already rank among the top five most gridlocked cities in the country. The approximately $77 billion USD high-speed rail system will run entirely on renewable energy (electricity). High-speed rail will help the state achieve climate goals (reducing congestion and pollution) by reducing transportation emissions and being part of a sustainable transportation network.
The high-speed rail system aims to improve mobility and access to jobs and affordable housing in California. They will be utilizing existing Caltrain infrastructure in place at some locations, and upgrading them so that these blended stations will have lines that both Caltrain and the California High-Speed Rail operate on.
According to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, “Providing the same people-carrying capacity as high-speed rail from San Francisco to Los Angeles would require 4,200 new highway lane miles, 91 additional airport gates and two new airport runways costing between $122B-$199 billion USD, not including operations and maintenance costs; more expensive than the $63B-$98 billion USD cost of the California High-Speed Rail.”
2.) UBS Arena (Elmont, NY; Infrastructure)
The UBS Arena at Belmont Park, is a redevelopment megaproject (~$1.5 billion) in Elmont, New York, of a live entertainment, concert, and sports venue. UBS Arena will be the future home of the New York Islanders hockey team.
The project is developed in partnership with Oak View Group, the New York Islanders, and Sterling Project Development, and is projected to open in November 2021. The arena is expected to host more than 150 major events each year.
The UBS Arena project is expected to create approximately 10,000 construction jobs during redevelopment and 3,000 permanent jobs. According to UBS, “30% of contracting dollars for construction will be earmarked for state-certified minority and female-owned businesses, and 6% will be earmarked for service-disabled veteran-owned businesses. An additional $100 million investment will go to transit and infrastructure enhancements, including the first, newly constructed Long Island Railroad station in almost 50 years….”
Courtesy of Georgia Power.
3.) Vogtle Electric Generating Plant (Burke County, GA; Nuclear Energy)
Units 3 and 4 of the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, or Plant Vogtle, are the first nuclear plants to be built in the United States in 30 years. Once complete, this megaproject near Waynesboro, GA, will produce enough safe, reliable, and affordable electricity to power one million homes and businesses in the state. The plant is jointly owned by Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power Corporation, Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia, and Dalton Utilities.
The $27-billion USD project currently employs more than 7,000 workers at the sites of Unit 3 and Unit 4. Expected to produce energy in early 2022, these units are Westinghouse AP1000 (Advanced Passive) nuclear units that will produce about 1,117 megawatts of electricity (MWe) each. According to Georgia Power, they have contracted with Bechtel to manage the project’s daily construction efforts in which the Bechtel team works under the direction of Southern Nuclear, the Southern Company subsidiary which operates the existing units at Plant Vogtle.
4.) Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) (Mauna Kea, HI; Space / Science)
The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is a new class of extremely large telescopes (30 meters in diameter) that will allow for deeper sight into space and the ability to observe cosmic objects with unmatched sensitivity. The $2.4 billion USD Thirty Meter Telescope is being built in Hawaii on Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano.
TMT International Observatory (TIO), an international non-profit partnership consisting of universities from Canada, China, Japan, India, and the US plans to explore the beginning of the universe, the physics of the early universe, and dark matter with the massive telescope. TIO is in charge of the telescope’s design, construction, and operations.
Once built, it will be comprised of a giant mirror made up of 492 segments of reflective glass, and will have a total collecting area of 655 square meters. Completed, the TMT will be 34,000 square feet and stand 18 stories tall. The telescope will provide resolution that is 12 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said construction of the TMT would be delayed. Onsite construction has yet to begin in Summer of 2021, but pieces of the TMT are in production.
5.) Project Connect (Austin, TX; Rail & Bus)
Project Connect is a transit plan for Austin, Texas, that Austin voters approved Initial Investment funding for on November 3, 2020. The $7.1 billion USD megaproject will consist of a new rail system, a downtown transit tunnel, an expanded bus system, and a transition to an all-electric fleet.
The megaproject will be directed by the Austin Transit Partnership, an independent organization. Federal funding is expected to fund up to half of the total program investment.
According to the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, “The Project Connect System Plan will bring a number of firsts to Austin, including a light rail system that travels under the densest part of the city, improving the speed, on-time performance, reliability and safety of the entire system. Light rail will also connect North and South Austin, provide a direct route to the airport, cross the river before extending down South Congress and serve East Austin and Colony Park. Expanded bus service and an all-electric fleet would include more MetroRapid, MetroExpress and on-demand circulators – 24 new Park & Rides will provide more connections into the larger transit system.”
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