The evolution of architecture represents a country’s socio-economic development. If you look at what Dubai was like a few decades ago, you will not be surprised by what it is today. They transformed a desert into a tourist attraction and economic hub, attracting visitors and businesspeople from all over the world. However, the architectural development mania has also resulted in some unfavourable situations. Did you know there is a capital city that was built for millions of people but remains practically empty? And that the US wasted billions of dollars for a megaproject that was never even used and remains completely useless to this day? Here, in this article, we will explore 5 of the most useless infrastructure projects in the world.
Useless Road Infrastructure Project
Interstate H-3, Hawaii, US
The spectacular 26-kilometre-long Interstate H-3 runs through one of the world’s most beautiful environments. This road is in the Aloha state of Hawaii. It’s so beautiful that there were serious concerns about people stopping and causing traffic jams. However, the motorway is as divisive as it is magnificent.
The highway was initially planned in 1960 with military concerns in mind. As it would connect the Pearl Harbour Naval Base on the south side to the Marine Corps Air Station on the east coast. The announcement of its development was received with swift opposition from environmental groups and native Hawaiians concerned about the vast urbanisation that the project would entail.
Environmental rules, and a route alteration to protect the adjacent valleys, caused the plans to be postponed forever. The environmental barriers were lifted 26 years later when Congress exempted the project from environmental restrictions. And allowing the construction to begin in 1989.
The roadway was ultimately completed in 1997, about 37 years after it was first envisioned. Because of the rough terrain on which it was built and the modern technology utilised in its construction, Interstate H-3 is sometimes regarded as an engineering wonder. Aside from the various high-tech tunnels, the route entirely travels on viaducts to protect the local ecosystem in the valleys.
Cost of construction
Due to delays, route adjustments, and newer but more expensive technology made it took five times costlier to finish than the previous estimation. The overall cost of construction was $1.3 billion (₹9,956 crores), which equates to roughly $50 million per kilometre. That is meant to be the world’s most expensive cost per kilometre.
Despite its massive budget, this magnificent motorway isn’t for everyone. Critics say it’s a “road to nowhere” since the 1960s defence issues are no longer relevant. Moreover, there’s no direct access to downtown Honolulu.
Then there’s the matter of native Hawaiians, the vast majority of whom still refuse to use the H-3. They believe it is “cursed” since it destroyed several religiously significant cultural sites during its construction.
In terms of megaprojects, the Interstate H-3 highway is unquestionably a success. However, for other indigenous communities, it remains “useless”. At the very least, it has not been fully forsaken, as are the other useless infrastructure projects listed below.
Useless Airport Infrastructure Project
Ciudad Real Central Airport, Spain
Spain is one of Europe’s most popular vacation tourist attractions. Hence, this was the main factor for the construction of Ciudad Real Central Airport. Spanish government predicted that it would become a popular destination for domestic and foreign tourists. The goal of this new airport was to provide an alternative to Spain’s increasingly overloaded primary airport.
The reason for the construction
The new airport has one of Europe’s top five longest runways and could accommodate 2 million (20 lakh) people per year. Compared to Madrid’s 70 million passenger capacity, this is a small quantity. However, expansion plans were already in the works to increase capacity to 10 million per year.
As a result, when it eventually went operational in 2009, the 1.3 billion dollar cost may have appeared justified. Regardless, these initiatives ground to a standstill in 2012 when the corporation behind the project declared bankruptcy.
Why is it on the list?
The complications began with the project’s location. While the name was the Central Airport, it was not central, as it was 200 kilometres from Madrid.
That exacerbated issues because most customers chose not to drive for hours to reach the distant area. Further, most major airlines preferred to execute aircraft operations from the capital.
As a result, within the first year of operation, the newly constructed airport was reduced to a single small-time airline. By 2012, the airport had acquired a 350 million dollar debt due to the lack of big airlines to attract customers.
Auctioned out the airport
Predictably, it went into bankruptcy and sold through auction in 2013. In 2014, the most popular British TV show Top Gear popularised the airport as an abandoned location. After many auctions failed, including an absurd $12,000 bid, the airport was eventually sold to new owners.
During the Covid-19 outbreak, the Ciudad Real Airport received a lifeline when companies collapsed; and income plummeted. With the airport having a dry environment, large runway, and spaciousness, the new owners reimagined it as a haven for parked planes with less possibility of passengers returning.
Storage for aeroplanes
By August 2020, there were 65 aeroplanes parked at the airport with expansions underway to provide a storage facility for over 300 aircraft. This new storage approach gave the airport a much-needed business opportunity.
However, all the stored planes will eventually be gone once the pandemic is finally over and the return of normal flight operations remains elusive. This billion-dollar airport remains ineffectively useless for passengers around the world and came into this category of infrastructure projects.
Useless City Capital Infrastructure Project
Myanmar has created a no-man land into a brand new city capital. In 2002, Myanmar’s former military authorities secretly began the construction of a new capital city. The relocation of a country’s capital is not unheard of, as numerous countries have done it in the past, including Brazil, Egypt, and Pakistan. Islamabad, the capital of Islamabad, boasts the most picturesque vistas.
Naming the capital
Myanmar’s leader declared his intention to the public in November 2005. Although, he did not reveal the name of the future capital. After four months, he eventually disclosed the name “Naypyidaw”, which translates as “Kings’ inhabitants”. The explanation for this abrupt change in money remained unknown.
Some assumed that the military command was afraid of a maritime invasion. While others speculated that it was relocated on the advice of astrologers. However, it was due to the former capital, Yangon, which has a population limit of 7 million. And they have thought it has reached its infrastructure limitations, with the expectation the city’s population to double by 2050.
Furthermore, during the British administration, the seaside city was created as the capital to assist the British Navy. As a result, it made sense for Myanmar to relocate its capital to a more central position. The new project was completed quickly, and successive governments have invested $4 billion in the city to date.
Amenities in the capital city
Naypyidaw appears to have everything to draw guests, including a 20-lane expressway, over 100 luxury hotels organised into three hotel districts, golf courses, museums, and even a 99-meter tall copy of a Yangon icon.
However, one critical component is still lacking. The populace! This new capital has a population of fewer than a million people, most of whom live in the suburbs that existed before the city was designated as the capital.
The reason behind the purposeless
There are some reasons why people don’t want to live there. A persistent dearth of health-care facilities, as well as a scarcity of high-quality educational institutions and economic prospects, means that the majority of the population is hesitant to make the city their permanent home. As a result, the city frequently resembles a deserted location and is referred to as a ghost town.
The incredible 20-lane roadway is nearly deserted. There is no sign of traffic congestion, and sometimes, not even a single vehicle can be found on the massive road. It may have a future, but it is currently one of the world’s most useless infrastructure projects.
The city boasts an airport that can handle 3.5 million passengers each year. Yet just a dozen people utilise it on a busy day. The diplomatic personnel visits the retail malls only on weekends, while the hotel lobbies are typically vacant.
Despite the seeming desolation, the Royal Capital has a silver lining. It is designed as a future metropolis, and with Naypyidaw’s rising population, there is still time for its inevitable redemption. For the time being, it is undoubtedly the World’s Strangest Capital and remains inaccessible to the majority of the country’s inhabitants.
Useless Futuristic City Infrastructure Project
Forest City, Singapore
We already discussed a city abandoned by the people. The next item on our list is a green futuristic metropolis. That would develop from the reclaimed ground on four artificial islands. And an artificial forest environment surrounds the islands. Forest City’s position makes it an intriguing option for investors looking to profit from its closeness to Singapore, an independent city-state. Singapore is home to the world’s second-busiest port and also a booming economy.
The development of the city
The developers have already connected Forest City and Singapore through the second link bridge, reducing the distance between the cities to just 20 minutes. Forest City will also have its own customs facility, allowing inhabitants to travel freely to and from Singapore. Many green advancements are said to be included in the design. Forest City will have buildings with green rooftops and vertical gardens, creating a jungle-like environment. The design of city streets will be multi-layered, with the bottom layer dedicated to traffic and parking spaces. The upper layer will include parks, sports facilities, and transportation hubs.
The cost of construction of this infrastructure project is around $100 billion and expecting to finish by 2035. The entire town will be powered by renewable energy. One of the four projected islands is nearly finished, with 50 residential structures, golf courses, swimming pools, and beaches. This tremendously ambitious undertaking, however, is not without challenges. A slew of economic and political roadblocks are already impeding its progress.
Chinese investments and Colonialism
The main sponsor of this project are from China, and Chinese people have almost free access to the city during the first several years of building. As a result, affluent Chinese investors who can’t afford the skyrocketing rates of flats in their country flock to Forest City.
By 2019, Chinese people accounted for 80 per cent of property owners. Even the street signs were in Mandarin, and the few schools that had opened in the region provided Mandarin classes. Because property prices are established with the Chinese markets in mind. Therefore, native Malaysians simply cannot afford to acquire these lands.
The inflow of Chinese investment sparked public outrage, with opponents of the project branding it a new type of colonialism. As a result, following a change in leadership, returning Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad prohibited foreigners from purchasing property in the Forest City.
Why is it on the list?
Many foreigners began to leave the city, discouraging prospective investment. The lockdown and the international travel prohibitions were the next significant setbacks. According to Malaysia’s movement control order, no new investors may enter the country. Because of the uncertainty, several previous investors withdrew from the project.
So, by the beginning of 2020, less than 500 people were living in the residential projects, which is a small number given that Forest City is meant for 700,000 people. Nobody knows what will happen to this magnificent infrastructure in the future. That is why we placed it on our list of the world’s most useless infrastructure projects.
Since then, the project has been in instability, with some salespeople saying that fewer than ten properties have been sold at Forest City since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak. Furthermore, Country Garden laid off nearly 1000 Malaysian workers last year, indicating a huge collapse in the project’s fortunes. Forest City was arguably too audacious to begin with, too far in the future to genuinely succeed, and too politically difficult to succeed any time soon. Despite the billions of dollars invested, it’s reasonable to say that Forest City is today one of the most useless infrastructure projects in the world.
Useless Nuclear Infrastructure Project
Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Depository, Nevada, US
The last on this list is a massive initiative conceived in response to a critical global problem. Nuclear waste is not discussed as often as other environmental issues. However, if not properly preserved, it can be deadlier than anything seen since the dawn of society. Currently, nuclear waste is kept above ground near the power facilities. The scientific community agrees that the safest long-term disposal approach is to deposit this dangerous material far below. In the 1980s, authorities in the United States set out to find a long-term solution to the country’s rising nuclear waste problem.
Solution for the nuclear waste deposit
In the year 1987, the best viable alternative was determined to be Yucca Mountain in Nevada. It was adjacent to the most heavily utilised nuclear testing site in the United States but far from any populated areas. The goal was to bury garbage from throughout the country in a tube network 300 metres beneath Yucca Mountain.
In addition to its remote position, the mountain is composed of volcanic ash that originated millions of years ago. It permits Yucca Mountain to absorb any nuclear waste without disintegrating or splitting. In theory, it appeared like a fantastic location for a repository, but Nevada officials were having none of it.
Opposing the project
There are approximately 100 operating and closed nuclear reactor facilities in 34 states of the United States. But none of them was in Nevada. As a result, legislative members and the general public were strongly opposed to the concept of becoming the sole nuclear dumping site in the country. Furthermore, the official hydrological and geological study of Yucca Mountain has raised some doubts.
Opponents said that the location was inappropriate for a repository because it may contaminate a local water supply. Native Americans who have lived in the region for millennia use the water source that flows into Amargosa Valley.
Development of the project
Despite the objections, the project was approved in 2002. And the construction was continued by the Department of Energy. Nevada’s opposition, on the other hand, only got stronger. They claimed that frequent exposures throughout the changeover would stigmatise Nevada citizens and harm tourism in the state. According to the opponents, Nevada’s primary basis for receiving the repository was due to its lesser population and representation in Congress.
Why is it on the list?
The entire endeavour had become very political by the time Barack Obama became the President of the United States. The Obama administration declared the project unfeasible in 2010 and discontinued funding it. A federal court authorised its reinstatement three years later. However, there has been no movement since the Biden administration indicated unequivocally that the yoga mountain is no longer on the country’s agenda.
Nevada appears to have won the war after four decades of planning, legal wrangling, and more than $17 billion invested in the Yucca Mountain project. However, after all, is said and done. It was never utilised and is now on the list of the world’s most useless infrastructure projects.
If an infrastructure project like Burj Khalifa has a success story, there will be some infrastructure projects which has become a failure. Who knows if the Burj Khalifa was a failure, and it may also have hit this list. May the purpose and idea be righteous, but the time and cost may not be worth the project. Every project gives us a lesson to improve the perfection of the construction. The research and study give us a clear idea to go for it or not. Sometimes, it may also pull as back due to external factors. But, learning the history of unsuccessful or “useless” infrastructure projects also provides us with the path to evade some major mistakes.