5 Crazy Ass Transcontinental Highways That Have Been Considered
One of the most underrated ideas over the last century was President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s interstate highway system¹.
Could you imagine trying to use state routes for interstate travel today?
In my opinion, this was one of the most practical ideas of the twentieth century. Very few people give it much thought — even though they use interstate highways daily.
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But as with most great ideas, other people come along and try to improve upon the initial concept.
One could naturally anticipate the unveiling of transcontinental highways as a piggyback on the great interstate idea because it just makes sense. This is especially true when clumps of nations share borders — like they do in Europe.
Some past proposals for transcontinental highways have reached new levels of outrageousness, while others make perfectly good sense. Whenever bridges and tunnels are used, the possibilities are endless. If anything, these suggestions deserve applause for creativity.
Connecting Europe and Africa
Looking at the Strait of Gibraltar on any map, it would make perfect sense to link the two land tips together with a bridge or tunnel. Visions of connecting Africa with Europe across this strait have been discussed as early as 1930 when engineers from Spain proposed a 20-mile tunnel².
The closest points between Spain and Morocco are only 9 miles apart. They are close enough to view one another’s coastline. While projects have been investigated for this tunnel in the past, the hardened rock underneath the strait complicates its construction. The costs were estimated to be around $13 billion.
As a result, such a tunnel would require several bends around these rock structures. And the tunnel would have to be constructed in extremely deep waters — which engineers estimate would take about 15 years to complete. Currently, no projects are underway.
Intercontinental Peace Bridge
Connecting Asia and North America
Another logical place for a transcontinental bridge as viewed on a map is the Bering Strait. This is the water gap between Alaska and Siberia.
A 55-mile Intercontinental Peace Bridge has been suggested to link these two landmasses³. This idea was first proposed during the Cold War by an award-winning structural engineer named T.Y. Lin. Lin was quite serious about constructing such a bridge — to the point he provided President Ronald Reagan with a 16-page pamphlet in 1986 detailing his plans.
This proposal won Lin lots of fans and critics and was quickly internationalized. In 1994, he renewed this proposal once again along with an upgrade that included a pipeline network for transporting gas and oil from Russia to North America. Lin’s revision was prompted when Russia began tapping the previously untouched oilfields in Siberia.
Connecting Europe and North America
While the first two transcontinental highway proposals are sensible, the next three begin pushing the envelope of plausibility. And this starts with the Transatlantic Tunnel⁴.
This proposed railroad would run underwater across the Atlantic Ocean and connect New York with London, Brussels, or Paris. It was first proposed by the late Frank Davidson and Ernst Frankel, who worked on the Channel Tunnel (the “Chunnel”) that now connects France and England through the English Channel.
They envisioned the Transatlantic Tunnel to be constructed underneath the Atlantic Ocean's surface while being anchored to the seabed using spring-loaded wires. How far below the ocean’s surface would be dependent on both the presence of icebergs and the water temperature fluctuation of the North Atlantic.
This tunnel would utilize superfast magnetic-levitation trains that would travel between New York and London in only four hours. As you might imagine, this project received enormous criticism.
It comes with a modest price tag starting at $200 billion, and there are countless problems with building a 3,500-mile tube across the Atlantic Ocean. And many experts claim that the required technology for the Transatlantic Tunnel won’t be available until 2099.
Connecting Asia and North America
The China-Russia-Canada-America line is a huge vision and would be a huge project⁵. It suggests that a railroad start from China and travel through Russia, Alaska, and Canada before finally reaching the United States mainland.
A 125-mile underwater tunnel would link Russia and Alaska through the Bering Strait. China has claimed in the past that building such a tunnel would not be a problem. They claimed to have already used the needed technology when it built the Fujian-Taiwan underwater railroad that now links China to Taiwan.
In 2014, there was discussion that China was considering this project, but no one is clear about its status currently.
Connecting the entire world
The fifth proposed transcontinental highway was a real doozy. It suggested that a massive Trans Global highway connect all the inhabitable continents of the world⁶.
This idea was first envisioned by a man named Frank Didik. It’s not entirely a new highway; rather, it’s mostly the connecting and standardizing highways that already exist. But there would be several required construction sites for bridges and tunnels.
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Should this idea ever become a reality, it would be possible to travel the entire world via highways. In addition to roads, the project would also consist of pipelines for gas, water, oil, and even communication cables.
Didik believes the only thing preventing such a highway system is the hatred that exists among various nations. No one can argue that.
: Lee Lacy. (February 20, 2018). Dwight D. Eisenhower and the birth of the Interstate Highway System. https://www.army.mil/article/198095/dwight_d_eisenhower_and_the_birth_of_the_interstate_highway_system.
: Elizabeth Nash. (January 30, 2007). Tunnel linking Europe and Africa inches closer. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/tunnel-linking-europe-and-africa-inches-closer-5332111.html.
: Wikipedia.org. Strait of Sicily Tunnel. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strait_of_Sicily_Tunnel.
: Concrete Construction Staff. (June 1, 1988). Intercontinental Peace Bridge Could Join East And West. https://www.concreteconstruction.net/projects/infrastructure/intercontinental-peace-bridge-could-join-east-and-west_o.
: David Russell Schilling. (December 3rd, 2013). $100 Billion Transatlantic “VacTrain” Would Be Largest, Most Complex Project Ever. https://www.industrytap.com/transatlantic-meglev-train-would-be-largest-project-in-human-history/16108.
: Jonathan Kaiman. (May 8, 2014). Chinese experts ‘in discussions’ over building high-speed Beijing-US railway. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/08/chinese-experts-discussions-high-speed-beijing-american-railway.
: Warren Coppard. (January 6, 2020). The Trans-Global Highway. https://wcoppard.medium.com/the-trans-global-highway-dbee9d5ebd61.