10

First, I realize that this question was asked back in Jan 2017, but it was difficult to obtain useful data because the details of construction were not available.

This question arises as a spin-off of a recent question about the cost-effectiveness of the wall. It seems to me that before one can discuss the cost-effectiveness, it is necessary to have a handle on the "cost".

I am NOT interested in speculation about motivations of people, or how specific individuals would behave.

Almost two years later, is there any better estimate for the cost of a completed border wall project?

  • 2
    to those voting to close - a reason is appreciated. – BobE Dec 27 '18 at 20:13
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    I voted to close this question because the cost of a future project, on the government dime, is impossible to know before some major milestones in its construction process, let alone before the ground breaking or appropriations have cleared. We don't know what the design is going to be, or how much it will cost, largely because we don't know what the design will be, or what hurdles will appear before it. For reference, look to the High Speed Rail in California. – Drunk Cynic Dec 27 '18 at 20:30
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    @BobE the leading focus is the lack of a design, even base concept, and the actual appropriations. The additional hurdles are the cost of the "ecological impact" surveys that will be required. – Drunk Cynic Dec 27 '18 at 23:27
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    @DrunkCynic: There's no lack of a design... the problem is that there are too many competing ones, because the appropriations process hasn't yet winnowed the field. Debating a set of 3 or 4 designs is possible, a set of three or four hundred is far less amenable to comprehensive analysis. – Ben Voigt Dec 31 '18 at 22:18
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    @Giter you appear to have no experience with government procurement or project management. – phoog Jan 2 at 5:14
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There are no estimates on the cost of a completed US-Mexico border wall, because the project has not yet been detailed and designed.

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    This is patently false: there are lots of estimates. E.g. eu.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/border-issues/2018/08/06/… Which ones are accurate is of course another matter. – Paul Johnson Dec 31 '18 at 16:16
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    Paul are any of the estimates based on anything other than speculation of what is to be built ( materials) , where it is to be built, how high, how many miles, costs of property access , etc, etc. Even the president hasn’t decided what the construction will be, how long etc – BobE Jan 1 at 1:25
  • See this answer by @WhatRoughBeast – guest271314 Jan 2 at 16:19
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What’s next you might ask? When combined with the funds provided in FY 2017 and FY 2018, if funded at $5B in FY 2019 (emphasis added) DHS expects to construct more than 330 miles of border wall in the U.S. Border Patrol’s highest priority locations across the Southwest border.

DHS is positioned to construct 215 miles of Border Patrol’s highest priority border wall miles including:

  • ~5 miles in San Diego Sector in California
  • ~14 miles in El Centro Sector in California
  • ~27 miles in Yuma Sector in Arizona
  • ~9 miles in El Paso Sector in New Mexico
  • ~55 miles in Laredo Sector in Texas
  • ~104 miles in Rio Grande Valley Sector in Texas

Source: Walls Work


$5 billion/215 is 23255813.9535.

The (FY 2019) estimated cost of a completed 215 miles of U.S.-Mexico border wall made by the primary source is $23,255,813.9535/1 mile.

2

Not that hard to get a rough back of the envelope unofficial estimation, all we have to do is look at other border barriers, and there is no shortage of these. I'll go with a cheap option:

Hungarian border barrier

This is a wire fence with razor wire on top though, not the fancy "big beautiful wall" that President Trump announced. This would be a lot more expensive.

The border between Hungary and Serbia is 175 kilometres (109 mi) long (...) The fence, which features concertina wire, is being built by contractors and a deployment of 900 soldiers at a cost of 30 billion forints ($106 million) for the 4-meter (13-foot) fence and the construction of two camps to house asylum applicants.

That's a cost of USD 605 000 per kilometer.

Mexiso-US border is 3145 km, that gives $1.9 billion.

GDP per capita is about 2x higher in the US than in Hungary, and online cost of living estimator says 2.5x higher... I'll go with a 2.5x higher cost in the US for a total of USD 4.7 Billion. Pretty close to the 5B figure I've heard, give or take.

That's 0.125% of the $4 trillion federal budget.

  • So that’s the your cheap estimate and thank you it is properly identified as unofficial. Do you think that the president would be satisfied with a wire fence? My point is that no engineer is going to begin to develop an estimate until the construction parameters have been established. – BobE Jan 1 at 1:39
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    @BobE "Do you think that the president" => Trying to predict what Trump is going to do next is rather risky... – peufeu Jan 1 at 10:04
  • @BobE False. Multiple designs have been developed and mister Trump has visited the designs, pointed at them and talked about them. (proof). Of course engineers are going to make mock-ups, they want to build a wall because it's a big project with a good payday. – JJ for Transparency and Monica Jan 1 at 16:54
  • @JJJ - of course trump looked and pointed - but did anyone ( president or congress) declare " yes this is the design, now figure out how to build it from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific" ? I don't know how to say it any plainer, until the parameters of the project are established (or acceptable alternate parameters) you can't provide credible engineered cost estimates. – BobE Jan 2 at 3:56
  • @ Peufeu That is the point- until Trump makes a firm decision, the design parameters are unknown making it impossible to provide a firm cost estimate – BobE Jan 2 at 4:02
-1

Obviously "better" is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to estimates, but Rep. Kevin McCarthy has introduced a bill to "fully fund" the wall, which claims the cost in additional (unauthorized) spending to be $23.4 billion.

However, this simply tops up $1.6 billion in authorized spending to $25 billion, a pretty round number.

But, given that this is on the high end of the previous estimates, and would thus be something like a "statement against interest" (presumably it would be in Republicans' best interest to pretend the wall will be inexpensive), I would argue this estimate has at least some value.

  • Have you read mccarthy's bill? He provides no information on the length of the wall, no references to materials of construction and cites no engineering costs. – BobE Jan 2 at 4:24
  • ref the last paragraph, asking for a huge envelop might also be a bargaining position : by asking for $25b in hypothetical negociations with the Democrats, the Republicans might later settle for, say, $12b and stilll pretend to have made a concession. – Evargalo Jan 2 at 12:06

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