Space & Innovation

The Most Massive Earth-Moving Projects of 2016​

These large-scale engineering plans include the world's tallest building and a manmade river that dwarfs the Nile.

While much of the world seems to be focused on shrinking their footprint, more is more appears to be a resonant mantra for a lot of engineers, architects and planners across the world.

This year, numerous superlatively massive projects were completed, underway or in the planning stages - from the world's tallest building to the rerouting of some of India's waterways to form what would be the world's biggest river. Here's a roundup.

A Neighborhood Built on a Platform

In New York City, the $20 billion Hudson Yards mixed-use development - which eventually will include five office towers, 5,000 homes, more than 100 stores and 20 restaurants - is being built on 28 acres of artificial land, in the form of a pair of platforms that cover 30 active sets of railroad tracks. The project is supported by 300 caissons, basically posts drilled deep into the bedrock between the tracks. The drilling began in 2014 and the platforms were completed in 2015. The project's biggest structure, the 90-story, 1,296-foot-tall 30 Hudson Yards skyscraper, is currently under construction, with completion scheduled in 2019.

The World's Longest River

India's Interlinking of Rivers plan, which a recent New Scientist article reports is on the verge of official approval, would spend $168 billion to build 30 gigantic canals and 3,000 dams, with the aim of connecting 14 rivers in northern India with another 16 in the country's western, central and southern regions. The result would be a massive single waterway that would stretch for nearly 7,800 miles - almost twice the 4,160-mile length of the Nile, the world's longest natural river.

The Biggest Urban Transit System

Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, is planning to build the biggest-ever mass-transit system created from scratch. The $23 billion Riyadh Metro Rail project will include nearly 110 miles of track and include six different rail lines and 85 stations. When completed in 2019, it will be able to handle 3.6 million passengers daily. ME Construction News reported in June that excavation for one of the train lines had been completed.

The World's Longest Floating Bridge

In April, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee cut the ribbon on the new SR 520 Floating Bridge and Landing Project, which spans 1.5 miles across Lake Washington in the Seattle area. The $4.56 billion structure, which replaces a smaller floating bridge built back in 1963, holds the distinction of being the world's longest floating bridge. The structure floats on pontoons and uses anchors to enable it to withstand strong winds and waves.

The Kilometer-High Skyscraper

Back in the 1950s, visionary architect Frank Lloyd Wright drew up a plan for the Illinois, a mile-high skyscraper that was never built. The planned Azerbaijan Tower, located on an archipelago of artificial islands in the Caspian Sea, won't be quite that monumental. But at 186 stories and approximately 3,445 feet in height, it would be the world's tallest building, exceeding even Dubai's 2,717-foot high Burj Khalifa tower. The project was announced back in 2012, but there haven't been any recent updates on its progress.

Enlarging an Historic Canal

The decade-long, $5.25 billion effort to modernize and expand the 102-year-old Panama Canal was completed in June 2016. The new locks, which are 70 feet wider and 18 feet deeper than the original, are designed to accommodate modern mega-sized cargo ships. In December, the Valparaíso Express, which is big enough to carry roughly 10,600 20-foot-long shipping containers, became the largest-capacity ship ever to pass through the canal.

The World's Biggest Urban Nature Park

The city of Dallas and other groups, in an effort to transform the shoreline of the Trinity River, are in the early stages of building a network of green recreational areas and a nature preserve. If all of the projects are completed, the green spaces would cover an expanse 12 times the size of New York's Central Park. The remaking of the Trinity's surroundings is part of a new approach to managing the river, whose route was straightened and heightened after a devastating 1908 flood. "Engineering and other efforts worked to corral the river, so flooding would not occur," said Brent Brown, an adviser and design facilitator for the Trinity Trust, a nonprofit organization that raises funds for restoring and developing the river corridor. "Now we're in that next chapter - how we move beyond controlling and bring back a more natural river landscape."