You want an engineer’s opinion on “The Wall”? Okay then
by Kelly Schweighsr, Former Civil Engineer, now on disability
1 - the environmental study will take 3 to 5 years to complete, but only if the project is divided into manageable chunks of 1/2 mile to 2 miles in length. That give us about 1,000 different design sections. And if you think that this phase can be skipped, the lawsuits over that decision will take 10 to 20 years to resolve and the court would probably order the environmental study done anyway.
2 - once you have the environmental clearance, the actual design can begin. Don’t think you need to design something as basic as a wall? The first step is to perform soils testing to see what kind of foundation is needed; skip that and your wall has a good chance of falling down or falling over. While, technically, you could probably design a 1/2 mile section of wall in 3 or 4 working days, you also need to account for the approval process and review times. Chances are that the design stage will take a minimum of 18 months.
3 - acquiring the land/ right-of-way will take from 4 to 6 months, *provided* that the landowner is willing and you don't have to go to court. That gives you time to get an estimate, get the estimate reviewed and approved, contact the land-owner, make the offer, accept a counter-offer (if they make one) and get the documents signed and sealed. If the land-owner does NOT want to sell, expect a protracted court fight of 3 to 7 years (longer if the land-owner has lots of money). If you can't get the land, go back to step 1 and start over.
4 - add on another 4 to 6 months to advertise for bids, accept the bids, make certain that the bidding contractor has done all the proper paperwork and insurance (and isn’t just going to run off with the first payment or produce shoddy work) and generally get the project out the door.
5 - building the stupid thing probably takes the least amount of time, but you will still need to allot 2 months for the contractor to mobilize and order the raw materials, plus another 2 to 6 months for construction.
Now multiply that by 1,000 different sections of wall.
As a civil engineer for the State of Pennsylvania, I oversaw the design of about 100 bridges, so I'm fairly familiar with the system. Oh, and of those 100 bridge projects, exactly *1* of them came in on time. As a general rule, something will go wrong in the design process; if we knew what it was in advance we would budget time for it, but there is no way of knowing in advance what it will be. So this is actually what I would call an *optimistic* appraisal of the possible time-line and I would bet it takes at least twice as long as I have suggested.
Hope this helps.
Edit: Many folks are commenting on remote sections of the wall that do not have the infrastructure needed to get supplies and equipment to the construction site. You are correct, I did not address that in this answer.
Building the roads to get to the remote portions of “The Wall” would require a series of entirely separate projects to build those roads, which would need to go through the 5 steps above. That means each new access road would need an environmental clearance, design, right-of-way/ land acquisition, and so on.
But one additional step would also be needed before the road could be built - utility coordination. It is probable that where the access road tied into an existing roadway, there would be utilities that needed to be moved. If utilities needed to be brought to the construction site that would also require coordination with the various utility companies. (It is possible that the contractor could bring their own generators, truck in water and truck-out waste on a daily basis, though.)
Working with the utility companies would add another 6 months to 2 years to the project, depending on how many utilities were affected and whether or not electricity, water and sewer were extended to the actual building site.
As for housing workers, I imagine that most contractors would rent camping trailers or mobile homes to house the workers on-site in remote areas. Because most contactors already bring in a mobile home (or two, or more) to the site to use as a construction office, I don’t see that this would be a problem - unless the government builds 100 sections of wall simultaneously, in which case the trailers might be in short supply, resulting in higher costs.
Edit, the Second: fixed the typo in step 4.
Edit, the Third: (2/16/2019) A lot of comments suggest that the President can waive these standards, or that they won’t apply for this reason or that, or that “eminent domain” somehow speeds thing along. The answer is No.
No, the President can’t waive the requirements for an environmental document. This document is required by law, and those laws were written and approved by Congress and signed by previous Presidents. If the government won’t follow its own laws, why should anyone else? Declaring a national emergency doesn’t change those laws, nor does anything else.
No, eminent domain doesn’t speed up the process of acquiring the land. Eminent domain allows the government to take land FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE PUBLIC. The land-owner can dispute the value the government places on the land taken; they can dispute the amount of land being taken; they can dispute the need for their land to be taken to build the project; they can dispute the need for the project (either in its entirety or just that section); or they can demand mitigation measure be taken. Depending on their claim, the Court might stop just that section from advancing or it might stop the entire program from advancing. And, in some cases, the Court will order the government to pay the land-owners costs for the suit. I accounted for the requirements of eminent domain in Stage 3, above.