Most Useless Megaprojects In The World
Let's explore the most useless megaprojects in the world!Money
Countries around the world have pumped millions and even billions of dollars into huge construction projects that make our lives better. But some megaprojects should’ve been thrown in the garbage at the planning stage! Let's check out the most useless megaprojects in the world!
The Cursed H-3 Interstate
Hawaii is a beautiful place! It’s got beaches, grass skirts, coconut bras, and a super-expensive blight on the landscape, the H-3 Interstate. However, as Hawaii is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it doesn’t connect to any other state! The name just means it’s been funded by the federal government.
Rather than spanning 2,500 miles to the nearest state, California, it spans just 15; from northwest of downtown Honolulu to the Marine Corps Base Hawaii. Even so, it still cost a colossal $1.3 billion to build or $80 million a mile!
Back in 1960, when the road was first authorized, people weren’t happy. Not only was it set to level vast numbers of trees, but there were also sacred temples and funerary mounds in the area that were super-significant to Native Hawaiians. Because of this, people protested hard.
But constructors eventually got legal authorization anyway and in 1989 they started building. Seven contractors and eight years later, it finally opened in 1997. So, despite H-3 taking 37 years and blowing the budget by a shocking amount, are Hawaiians happy? Not at all.
Construction destroyed many of the sacred sites throughout the valley. Lots of people won’t drive anywhere near the road for fear of being cursed by the dead, so it’s hardly even used! If you were thinking of taking a smooth cruise through the Hawaiian countryside then, best be checking your backseat before you set off!
St. Francis Dam Disaster
During the early 1900s, the city of Los Angeles needed a reliable water reserve for the growing needs of the city. So, they hired self-taught civil engineer William Mulholland to set about designing and building the largest arch-supported dam in the world. Construction started in 1924 and was finished suspiciously quickly in 1926.
Located in San Francisco Canyon about 40 miles outside downtown LA, the completed St. Francis Dam was over 700 feet long and 185 feet tall, big enough to accommodate more than 12 billion gallons of water! That’s over 18,000 Olympic swimming pools!
However, as it began to fill, the cracks in self-taught Mulholland’s experience started showing, very literally. Several leaks began appearing, which the engineer dismissed as totally normal. But in reality, the foundations of the dam were woefully unsuitable for supporting such a huge weight of water!
On March 12th, 1928, only five days after the reservoir reached max capacity, the giant concrete wall collapsed, sending all 12 billion gallons of water hurtling towards the Pacific Ocean. After just 5 minutes, the 120ft wave had violently careered one and a half miles from the collapsed wall, destroying everything in its path.
It went down as one of the worst engineering catastrophes in US history, destroying 1,000 homes and leaving at least 431 people sleeping with the fish. Although he was relieved of any wrongdoing, Mulholland never worked again.
Xiangyun Ghost Town
Xiangyun International project is a 1,800-acre development in Shijiazhuang, China, and it’s completely empty! Over the course of several years, developers splashed a monstrous $3 billion on creating a new, high-end residential super-community. But when the construction company’s CEO was arrested in 2014 for bribing state officials, the company fell into crisis and incurred billions of dollars in debt.
They were forced to declare bankruptcy and Xiangyun was seized by the government, leaving thousands who’d already bought properties there seriously out of pocket. Now, the huge city is eerily empty, like a ghost town.
One company has expressed an interest in taking the failed city over, but it’s gonna take some really big bucks to save this place. It’s a shame; if it had worked out, it’d be a pretty awesome place to live!
Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge
The HZMB Bridge system has reduced the transportation time between three of the world’s most populous cities, Hong Kong, Zhuhai, and Macau, from four hours to just thirty minutes! It’s the longest sea crossing in the world at over 34 miles long, meaning it could stretch the entire width of Los Angeles and still have a bridge to spare!
So, what’s the catch? Considering the whole thing cost a gargantuan $18.8bn, you’d imagine it’d be put to good use but, hardly anyone actually drives down it! You need a crossing permit, and it’s almost impossible to obtain one.
Only high-tech investors, top academicians, politicians, or philanthropists are even considered for the permits, and your vehicle must be registered in all three cities. Even then, the daily limit for applicants is only 400. It seems like they’re doing everything they can to stop people from crossing.
Some people reckon that because of Hong Kong’s overcrowding problem, they’re trying to limit traffic flow into the city. But if that’s the case, why spend nine years and almost $19bn building this thing just to stop people from using it?
Crazy Horse Memorial
Ever dreamed of having a giant statue built of you when you die? One statue in Custer County, South Dakota takes this concept to the extreme. Back in 1877, Native American war hero, Crazy Horse, led the Lakota people into battle to protect Native territory from the federal government but was fatally wounded.
62 years later, in 1939, Lakota chief Henry Standing Bear commissioned Polish American sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, who’d previously worked on nearby Mount Rushmore, to carve the hero’s likeness into Thunderhead Mountain.
With those credentials, nothing could go wrong, right? Well, Korczak’s original plans were for the statue to be 641 feet long and 563 feet tall, overtaking the entire mountain and looking a lot like the image below.
Jump to the present day and the image below shows what we’ve actually got. The face is the only part that’s been finished, and that wasn’t completed until 1998, 50 years after Korczak started! And there’s been practically no progress since.
Though Korczak himself worked tirelessly to try and complete it, after his passing, his family took the baton, and they were less than enthusiastic. Despite raking in millions of dollars in donations and tourist fees from the incomplete monument, they’ve added very little to it.
Even worse, Thunderhead Mountain was a sacred burial ground. Destroying the land Crazy Horse died protecting goes against everything he stood for! The Lakota people seem to have been left behind for an egotistical money-making project by the Ziolkowskis.
The Abandoned Amazon Stadium
With 3.5 billion supporters around the world, it’s safe to say soccer is the most popular sport on Earth. So, in 2014, when Brazil hosted the prestigious World Cup, they set about building a bunch of new stadiums to impress all the global spectators. But one stadium left fans scratching their heads.
In the city of Manaus, in the Amazon rainforest, the aptly named Arena de Amazônia might be the worst location for a giant soccer stadium ever. There are no roads from Manaus to the coast, and that was where the building supplies were delivered. So, all the materials had to be shipped up the Amazon River, which was a super-expensive journey.
Then, during construction, the blazing hot rainforest temperatures proved too much for the grass on the pitch, which turned brown and died. At this, event organizers took to painting it green! Not exactly what you’d expect from a $300 million stadium. But its post-World Cup life has proven even more miserable.
The most successful team in Manaus, Nacional, is all the way down in the 5th tier of Brazilian Soccer. So, while they have taken the stadium as their own, audience attendance rarely hits over 3,000, a tiny fraction of the 44,300 total capacity. They literally have no fans. Aside from the occasional Christian concert held here, the place remains pretty empty!
The Giant Moving Gundam Statue
The robotics race has really ramped up in recent years. We’ve had the good, the bad, and the downright weird. But this Giant Gundam suit in Yokohama, Japan, might be the most ridiculous of them all. Based on the RX-78-2 mech suit from the popular Gundam anime series, this to-scale model is a tremendous 59ft tall!
Naturally, getting a 25-ton robot the size of three giraffes to move is not an easy feat. However, we wouldn’t rely on this Gundam to protect Earth from any alien invasions like the ones from the show. Aside from taking a few slow steps forward and bending down on one knee like a sluggish grandma, it doesn’t really do a lot. It’s just a big, shiny tourist attraction.
So, if you’re not that into Gundam it does seem pretty pointless. While the official price hasn’t been revealed, a similar-sized statue in Tokyo cost around $100,000. But that can only move its head, whereas the Yokohama Gundam can move its entire body! And that means a much bigger price tag.
U.S.-Mexico Border Wall
Whether you love or hate ex-President Donald Trump, there’s no denying that one particular policy from back in his initial 2016 election didn’t exactly turn out as he’d promised: reinforcing the border wall between the USA and Mexico.
This new wall was supposed to be made of 1,000 miles of big, beautiful concrete, and Mexico was going to cover the whopping $8 to $12 billion invoice. It’s not exactly gone to plan. So far, the border wall is only 450 miles long, less than half what was promised, and only 47 miles of that is actually new!
The rest of it is just the previous wall, bolstered with steel bollards. Which as you can see in the clip below, isn’t that great at keeping people out.
But if you’re not the best climber, don’t worry! There’re some nice low parts you can just hop right over! Some of the new parts were made so badly, you just need to wait until they fall over!
So far, this ludicrous project has cost an outrageous $15 billion. That’s almost $320 million per new mile built! Plus, some estimates say the yearly maintenance costs could be up to $28bn. And as for Mexico fronting the bill, well, they haven’t coughed up a dime! It’s all been covered by the taxpayers.
The Failed Monju Fast Breeder Reactor
Since getting the go-ahead in 1983, the Monju nuclear power station, in Japan’s Fukui Prefecture only produced one measly hour of power. One hour in several decades!
Monju is a prototype fast-breeder reactor. By jiggling the reaction process, the creators had hoped the plant would recycle used nuclear fuel to create even more energy, making production way more efficient. Which sounds great on paper, except it turned out to be anything but efficient.
Major faults were discovered in 14,000 individual components, some controlling critical safety features of the station. In 1995, a fire broke out, which staff tried to hide by editing the security footage! And in 2010, a 3.3-ton refueling machine fell into the reactor vessel and got so busted up it wouldn’t fit back through the top. What a comedy of errors.
Yet somehow the plant limped on. In 2011 though, a nuclear disaster struck Fukushima when a tsunami hit the Fukushima nuclear power station and caused a radiation leak. After that, public opinion turned firmly against nuclear power, especially Monju, which by that point had devoured almost $12 billion of government spending with nothing to show for it.
Five years later, in 2016, it was closed for good and authorized for deconstruction. But guess what? That’s going to take until 2047 and cost another $3.4 billion! So, all in all, this has been a shameful $15 billion, 60-year demonstration of how not to make something. And if you were wondering where the name ‘Monju’ came from, it was named after the Buddhist deity of wisdom, the irony.
Malaysia's Forest City
Some countries, like Malaysia, have struggled to implement environmental changes. Announced in 2006, Malaysia’s Forest City was meant to be an incredible “role model of future cities”, consisting of four artificial islands off the coastal wetlands of Johor.
Concept pictures showed beautiful towers draped with plants, carless roads, and smart technology apartments that could maintain your home with no intervention. But since the grand opening in 2016, things haven’t exactly taken off. By 2019, only 15,000 units had been sold, embarrassingly short of their target of 700,000. And as few as 500 people actually lived there!
The Chinese developers targeted the project almost exclusively towards upper-middle-class Chinese citizens as a place to store their wealth outside of China. But this collapsed when the Chinese government introduced a yearly spending cap of $50,000 on purchases made outside the country.
Couple that with COVID and Malaysia having a political crisis, and you’re left with a ghost town struggling for buyers! With the most basic studio apartment costing almost $100,000 and the average Malaysian salary being less than $11,000, there’s no chance of the locals affording it!
But that’s not all. Despite being touted as an ecological marvel, its construction has caused irreversible damage to protected wetlands off the coast of Malaysia! You can’t put a price on the environment, but you can put a price on a hunk of junk, and that’s a ridiculous $100 billion.
Lotus Riverside Collapse
Buying your first house is a stressful experience, full of highs and lows. But if your first property was in the Lotus Riverside Project in Shanghai, it’d just have been one monumental low. On June 27th, 2009, one of the eleven 13-story apartment blocks collapsed completely onto its side!
Fortunately, no one was living there at the time, but sadly one unlucky worker was inside collecting his tools when the building gave way. They’d been digging a pit to create an underground garage below the south side of the apartment block and piling all the excavated dirt on the north side.
But the huge, heavy mound of dirt shifted the structure of the soil, putting loads of extra pressure on the concrete foundations, and these were vital for supporting the building from below. Unable to tolerate this increase in pressure, they snapped, and the whole building toppled over.
Miraculously, the ten other blocks were undamaged, but can you imagine the domino rally that could’ve happened? Well, 400 owners of the other apartments could, and they demanded their money back right away! As a result, the developers had to pay out almost $2 million in damages and got hit with almost $3 million for the cleanup!
The Costa Concordia Disaster
The Costa Concordia was a 114,000-ton, 950 feet long mega-cruiser capable of carrying over 4,000 people. The enormous ship went into service in 2006 and cost a whopping $570 million, but it hardly lasted six years. On the last leg of a cruise around the Mediterranean in 2012, it struck a rock near Tuscany, Italy, and partly capsized.
Captain Francesco Schettino had deviated from the planned course to perform a sail-by salute, where a ship is brought close to shore to salute those on land. Confident enough he could navigate the area by eye, Schettino had turned off the ship’s computer navigation system before performing the maneuver. Big mistake.
Less than 1,000 feet from the shore, he suddenly noticed dangerous waves breaking on the reef and ordered the ship to turn. By then, however, it was too late. The ship turned and crashed straight into an uncharted rock in the seabed. Despite the best efforts of the rescue team, 34 people never made it back to shore.
As well as the tragic losses, it took over two years for the ship to be refloated and towed almost 200 miles to Genoa where it was torn apart and scrapped! The entire cost of the clean-up and scrapping, plus the compensation pay-outs for the victims, came to around $2 billion. You could buy nearly four new boats for that!
Metropolitan Sepulchre, London's Death Pyramid
For architect Thomas Willson, living in 1820s London was tough. Not because of the food or the weather, but because of all the bodies piling up with nowhere to bury them! From 1770, London had a massive industrial boom. So, many people relocated to the city for work. But more people eventually means more bodies to bury.
And allocating enough graveyard space to accommodate all of them was overlooked! Until, that is, Willson came up with a seriously metal solution to London’s corpse-y conundrum: A Giant Pyramid Of Death! By building up, Willson theorized you could condense 1,000 acres of traditional graveyard space into just 18 acres, capable of storing 5 million bodies!
He planned the pyramid to be 90 stories tall! London’s tallest building, the Shard, is 95 stories tall or just over 1,000 feet, so this pyramid would’ve been colossal! Each side would be covered in dark granite, with stairs leading to an observatory at the top.
Unfortunately, at $789m in today’s money, the crazy scheme proved too dear. Plus, Londoners were understandably against having a nightmarish pyramid of bodies towering over their city. So instead, the city privatized land specifically for traditional graveyards.
Naypyidaw, Myanmar's Ghost City Capital
Despite being eight times bigger than New York, less than eight times the people live in the capital city of Naypyitaw, Myanmar. So, where’d they all go? Well, they were never there.
Naypyitaw only became the capital in 2005, after Myanmar’s military government became paranoid that the previous capital, Yangon, was going to be attacked from the sea. Naypyitaw is more central, but it’s also a far less desirable place to live.
Even though it covers almost 3,000 square miles, there’s only one high school, very few shops, and almost no public transport. What’s more, most businesses are still located in the previous capital city! So, unsurprisingly, people don’t want to relocate. As such, this 20-lane highway in the below image is almost always eerily empty, like something out of Silent Hill.
It’s pretty obvious who this city was really made for though. There might be no public facilities, but there is a 100-room presidential palace and a 31-building parliamentary complex. The whole place cost a heart-breaking $4 billion too, about 5% of all the money Myanmar makes in a year! The public essentially funded something utterly useless to them, so the corrupt government can hold onto their dictatorial power.
Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster
It’s crazy to think that nowadays if you’ve got enough money, you can literally fly off into space. But our journey to conquer the cosmos has had some major hitches along the way. Back in 1986, NASA’s Challenger shuttle took off for space, just 73 seconds later though it broke apart and set completely aflame!
Sadly, all seven crew members went down with it. The shuttle was intended to have a lifespan of 10 years, however, Challenger had only been in action for a measly three! So, what happened?
Well, the “O-rings” in the right-hand rocket booster malfunctioned. These are small rubber rings that create a tight seal to contain all the immense pressure that’s produced when burning rocket fuel. But freezing temperatures on launch day stiffened the rubber, preventing the seal from forming properly.
Because of this, when the rocket took off, flames burned through the booster wall and prised it away from the external fuel tank. This ruptured the tank, spilling highly flammable liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen everywhere and setting the entire shuttle alight.
To add insult to injury, engineers at NASA had flagged up flaws in the rocket boosters as early as 1977, as well as the dangers of launching in cold conditions. However, their concerns were ignored, and the shuttle was allowed to fly.
Because of this, the space shuttle program was put on hold for the next three years. And rightfully so! In today’s money, Challenger’s building plus the money used in the wake of the disaster would cost a whopping $15 billion in total. I’m sure plenty of lessons were learned from this terrible tragedy, but that’s one expensive error!
If you were amazed at these useless megaprojects you might want to read our most expensive mistakes series. Thanks for reading!