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5 Biggest Construction Projects in U.S. History

5 Biggest Construction Projects in U.S. History

The United States is the second largest construction market in the world. Many of the construction projects in U.S. history have completely reshaped how we live, get resources, and travel. Below, you’ll find a list of the five biggest construction projects in U.S. history.

  1. New York City Water Tunnel #3

This is part of the water supply system for New York. It brings drinking water to more than 8 million residents of New York City and another 1 million upstate users.


The third water tunnel project began in 1970 and is expected to be completed in the 2020s -- 50 years later. Water tunnel No. 3 will be more than 60 miles long, at a cost of over $6 million. It sits 500 feet below the surface and is 24 feet wide. Since the project began, 24 people have died, including a 12-year-old boy who died while he was exploring uncapped water pipes.

  1. The Empire State Building

The framework for the Empire State Building started rising at a rate of 4.5 stories each week, beginning in 1930. The building was completed just 430 days later. It stands 102 stories or 1454 feet tall. More than 3.6 million people visit the building each year, which is the 9th tallest building in the world. It even has its own zip code.


In 1945, a B-25 Bomber crashed into the 79th floor of the building while in heavy fog. Fourteen people died, but the building was open for business on Monday.

  1. Trans-Alaska Pipeline System

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System is one of the largest pipeline systems in the world. It travels 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, Alaska. Construction began in 1974 after the 1973 oil crisis. There were huge difficulties to overcome during construction, including the extreme cold, the isolated terrain, and the permafrost. In 1977, the pipeline carried its first barrel of oil. As of 2010, nearly 16 billion barrels of oil had flowed through the pipeline.


According to Terrence Cole, an Alaskan historian, “The wealth generated by Prudhoe Bay and the other fields on the North Slope since 1977 is worth more than all the fish ever caught, all the furs ever trapped, all the trees chopped down; throw in all the copper, whalebone, natural gas, tin, silver, platinum, and anything else ever extracted from Alaska too.”

  1. Hoover Dam

The Colorado River was controlled for the first time in history because of Hoover Dam. Lake Mead was also created, which holds almost 29 million acre feet of water. While there are 56 dams along the Colorado River and its tributaries, Hoover Dam was the largest of its time at 725.4 feet high and 1,244 feet long. Built during the Depression, thousands of men took less than five years to complete it, starting in 1933. The highest paid workers made $1.25 an hour.


There is enough concrete in the dam for a 16-feet wide, 8 inches thick road, running from New York City to San Francisco. If the heat created by the curing concrete could be concentrated in a baking oven, it could bake 500,000 loaves of bread each day for three years.

  1. The Panama Canal

As one of the most difficult engineering projects of the 20th century, the 48-mile long Panama Canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. An American-led company took over the project from the French in 1901, finding ways to defeat disease-causing mosquitoes and landslides. More than 40,000 workers from almost 50 countries were working at any one time.


The amount of rubble and earth removed in the building of the Panama Canal could bury the island of Manhattan to 12 feet. The canal opened in 1914 and Panama has had control of it since 1999. An incredible 13,000 ships take the 8-10 hours voyage through the canal each day.


[text & visuals provided by Alaska Structures]



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