Advances in technology and initiatives for sustainability are changing the way engineers design and develop large-scale projects that reshape communities, cities, and countries. Let’s take a look at five projects that represent great engineering accomplishments in 2017.
Al Maktoum International Airport–Dubai, UAE
An expansion of the Al Maktoum International Airport was approved in 2014 to make the airport the largest in the world, both in size and passenger capacity, by the year 2050. In two phases over six to eight years, Al Maktoum airport is projected to accommodate 220 million passengers per year. That will be more than twice as much as the current busiest airport in Atlanta, Georgia, which accommodated more than 101 million passengers in 2016. The Al Maktoum plan features new terminal facilities; satellite terminals; expansion of existing buildings, roads, runways, and tunnels; 12 new boarding lounges; and enhanced immigration transfer and security zones.
Otay Mesa East Port of Entry–San Diego, CA
This project represents an effort to alleviate hours of standstill traffic for vehicles traveling through the U.S.-Mexico border outside of San Diego. The Goods Movement Border Crossing Study and Analysis in 2012 found that the bottleneck in this region cost California $620 million and Baja California $630 million in estimated output losses. Productivity, output, and industry competitiveness have been suffering due to the long delays that plague both personal and business travelers.
The Otay Mesa East project, in conjunction with State Route 11, will install and connect tolled roads that are faster and more secure directly to a port of entry for personal and commercial vehicles. The project, costing roughly $715 million, would use several new technologies, such as detection systems, to lessen border wait times and provide advanced alert capabilities, varying electronic toll rates, a demand-management strategy, and partnerships that aid the design and financing of value-added amenities.
London Crossrail Project–England
Beginning in May 2009 and currently the biggest construction project in Europe, the London Crossrail Project will add 26 miles of new rail tunnels and 40 crossrail stations to ease congestion across England’s capital. The project includes 10 new stations in southeast and central London. Crossrail is already three-quarters completed, with the remaining tracks set to be laid by the year 2020. Over the next few years, the focus will be on completing aspects of the tunnel infrastructure: over 9,300 miles of cable for communication, lighting, and power; 2.5 miles of platform edge screens; and vent fans to aid with air circulation and temperature control.
One of the central goals of the new Crossrail is to increase passenger capacity by 10 percent to accommodate the estimated 200 million passengers expected to use Crossrail every year. The new enhancements will help relieve congestion on London’s transit system and increase passenger comfort and safety. In addition, workers and businesses will reap the economic benefits brought by greater access to employment opportunities throughout London. The Crossrail itself will provide roughly 75,000 opportunities for businesses and 55,000 full-time jobs. Sustainability has been a key focus throughout construction, with innovative energy-saving and emissions-reducing provisions embedded in the station designs.
SR 520 Floating Bridge and Landing Project–Seattle, WA
Located in Seattle, Washington, the SR 520 is currently the longest floating bridge in the world. The new Floating Bridge and Landing Project is designed to revamp the existing bridge, making it safer and friendlier for commuters, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Old pontoons and materials will be decommissioned and refitted with 77 new pontoons, replacing old structures that were vulnerable to earthquakes and windstorms.
The new bridge will increase capacity to six lanes, including two general-purpose lanes and an HOV lane (high occupancy vehicle lane) in each direction. Wider shoulders will allow vehicles to safely pull over, and bicycle and pedestrian paths will be 14-feet wide on the bridge’s north side to connect to regional trails around Lake Washington.
Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway – Ethiopia and Djibouti
Completed at the beginning of 2017, the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway links the capital of Ethiopia with the port of Djibouti by way of a 467-mile track. This electric railway is the first of its kind in the region and it represents a milestone for the country of Ethiopia, which has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. The new railway reduces the travel time between Addis Ababa and the Port of Djibouti from three days to a mere 12 hours.
Benefits to both Ethiopia’s and Djibouti’s economies include facilitating the expansion of Djibouti’s port and the development of Djibouti’s International Free Trade Zone (DIFTZ). More than 90 percent of Ethiopia’s trade passes through Djibouti, making the faster railway a boon to this already bustling economy.
Engineering the Future
Engineers continue to create unique structures that bring new opportunities to people, businesses, economies, and societies around the world. These projects are not only feats of engineering accomplishment; they create for good by making our lives better. They solve everyday problems and needs—such as traffic congestion, replacing unsafe structures, and reducing waste—while providing jobs and facilitating trade. Projects such as these can inspire engineers to use their training and skills to aspire to greater design inventiveness, bringing to life projects that lift the human condition.
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