10 Construction Projects That Broke the Bank

A co-worker found this great article on How Stuff Works.com about the 10 Construction Projects That Broke the Bank which includes a project that lasted from 1991 to 2007 that put 10 lanes of Boston Traffic underground. This project, nicknamed “The Big Dig”, was originally estimated at $2.6 billion and was completed at $14.8 billion. That’s a lot of work-change orders.

The projects on the top ten list include:

ryugyong hotel2

From www.hotelchatter.com

10. Ryugyong Hotel in North Korean that is nicknamed “The Worst Building in the History of Mankind” and the “Hotel of Doom”. In fact, the North Korean government generally photoshops the building out of skyline pictures.

9. Iridium Satellites was created in 1992 and put into limited service in 1998 after a $5 billion build. After poor performance and low volume, the group of satellites were sold for $20 million. (Ouch!)

8. MOSE Project in Venice, Italy was started in 2003 to combat the constant flooding and sinking city. Venice has already sunk 11″, but this project will not be completed until 2012 and cost estimates vary from $5.5 billion to $10.4 billion.

7. FIA Satellites make the second project for the quest for outer space. This project started with the Boeing Company company whose design was too ambitious to be built and was later moved to Lockheed Martin. In all, the U.S. government spent $18 billion for new spy satellites and received nothing but headaches.

6. Montreal-Mirabel Airport was aimed to be one of the major airports in the world and opened in 1975 when Montreal was preparing for the upcoming Olympic Games. Now empty and unused since 2004, this airport with six runways and six terminals was projected to transport 50 million passengers a year and never had move than 3 million passenger.

Sagrada familia under construction

From www.spanish-town-guides.com

5. Sagrada Familia is Barcelona’s temple of the Holy Family. Construction began over 125 years ago in 1882 by architect Antoni Gaudi. The project was first halted when Gaudi was killed by a streetcar in 1926. At this point, the project was only 15% done and the project struggled to stay financed through donations until recently.  Construction is scheduled to be done in 2026, nearly 150 years after it’s start.

4. International Space Station is no surprise to many Americans. After an initial price tag of $11.2 billion the project was later audited in 2006 and found that it costs $35 billion since 2006 and it would take an additional $100 billion to complete the project.

3. Millennium Dome should be the focus of London’s upcoming Olympics in 2012 after seeing the spectacular buildings in the Chinese 2008 games, but it was closed in 2001 after one year of service. The maintenance alone costs over $360,000 a MONTH for the $275 million building. The dome did reopen under new ownership in 2007 to host concerts, sporting events and exhibitions.


Photo from Railbritain.com

2. The Chunnel is a series of 31-mile long tunnels underneath the English Channel that connect England and France. This is probably the most reasonable project on the list in my eyes because of the impact it provided to both countries for commerce, travel, and world status. The project took six years to complete and recently the railway in the tunnel was open. In the end, the Chunnel costs $13.8 billion.

1. The Big Dig, as mentioned before, was an underground 10-lane infrastructure project in the heart of Boston. After 16 years of construction and seven times to initial costs, the project was completed in 2007 at $14.8 billion. The interest due on the loan will be paid through 2028 bringing the final costs to $22 billion. This massive and difficult infrastructure project was ignited by 10 hours of traffic each business day which costs the local economy $500 million.

In looking back at these projects, some aspirations are too good to be true. It costs of going to outer space is out of this world (pun intended) and governments need to check for project creep. Some of these projects seem to be faulty management and probably the fault of using the lowest-bidder method of hiring contractors.

Today, even in a global recession, we are seeing construction projects go to the lowest, qualified bidder. In a recent discussion with a client about the differences in public and private work, our client said their reputation of completing jobs on time and on budget in the public sector drives business their way in the private sector.