Why does it take so much longer to build in the US compared to 50+ years ago?

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It took a year to build the Empire State Building, and 5 years to build the Hoover Dam yet current estimates for the Francis Scott Key bridge rebuild are near 10 years. Why is this? Have we regressed?

In: Engineering

40 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Because we didn’t care about the environmental devastation that large building projects like the Hoover Dam would cause while it was being built. We also didn’t give two shits about the people being affected downstream of it either and we cared much less about worker’s safety than we do now.

Anonymous 0 Comments

96 people died building the hoover dam 5 people died in the construction of the empire state building. 0 is the current acceptable number of deaths for building in the USA. That requires alot of extra work to ensure everything is safe. Beyond that government spending on public works is likely much less than it was in the past.

Anonymous 0 Comments

There are many factors. Like the other person pointed out we used to just build and didn’t think about proper planning particularly for the environment/ecosystem, so we could build a lot but we also fucked a ton of shit up and had to fix that for decades after (or we didn’t and just let the issue persist, even worse…)

Also, the major firms that have the expertise and ability to build these large scale projects tend to be under contract elsewhere and have plans booked out many years in advance. 

We take longer to do research and we invest in way better planning. Then there is getting permits. Then there is actually hiring the firms and getting on their schedule. Then you deal with suppliers and prepping for the work. Finally, you break ground and build and throughout there can be issues, delays, pivots. 

There is zero doubt we build public infrastructure better today than in the past. Better planning, better materials, better design for more safety, more functionality, the works. The flipside to that is much larger costs and longer timelines.

We could deregulate and hire subpar contractors and use cheap materials, and it certainly would go up quickly… but would you trust it? Would the govt be able to afford the inevitable class action lawsuits from failures?

Anonymous 0 Comments

Francis Scott Key bridge rebuild has some challenges unique to it. First of all, the debris from the previous bridge has to be dealt with. Second, it spans a very busy waterway so dealing with the wreckage and building the new bridge both need to be accomplished with the least disruption to shipping as possible.

Then add in modern safety and building standards and you get a significantly more complex project than the ones you are citing.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Because we need the next bridge to not crumble like a house of cards if a boat runs into it. In addition, the Hoover Dam took 5 years to actually build, but it was in planning for much longer than that. It’s not like we have a blueprint, funding, permits, and construction crews ready to go for the bridge today. All of that is going to take a long time to pull together.

Anonymous 0 Comments

It depends, it doesn’t really take that much longer to build a building. Empire State Building took a little over a year, and it was record breaking fast at the time. Chrysler building was a little closer to a year and a half. They also had many people die on them from lax safety standards.

Newer buildings in NYC seem to do 4-5 years, for much bigger buildings.

Things like the Hoover Dam and the FSK bridge, well again, I don’t know that they take longer to build. The engineering before you start however is a lot more involved, as environmental studies are needed now, and construction might require environmental mitigations.

For the FSK bridge replacement, they are saying 10 years because you have to start the engineering. The Hoover Dam started in 1922 if you start from when they thought about building it. So 14 years. The FSK bridge started sometime in the 60s, with actual funding being 1968, so 9 years (and that was likely after engineering effort started)

Anonymous 0 Comments

On top of what other people have said, buildings/bridges/dams/etc are much more complex than they used to be. Both the design and construction of them. That additional complexity takes a lot of additional time to build.

Anonymous 0 Comments

In addition to all the other things mentioned it’s also a matter of money.

Empire State Building was a flagship project, with a massive workforce keeping up work 24/7. Hoover dam also had a massive workforce (some ten to twenty thousand), as the US government wanted the project completed fast (the advantages of having the dam exceeded the costs of building it quickly).

Francis Scott Key bridge is probably going to be built at a more sedate and cost effective pace.

Anonymous 0 Comments

In the 20s and 30s you could plan on one worker death per million dollars of budget. In the 40s the US military suffered more casualties in training command than they did in some combat commands.

If you think that’s acceptable today, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

Anonymous 0 Comments

According to that post, I don’t know if it was true or not but it said the Hoover dam concrete was still drying.