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Proposals for Trump’s border wall include fences, lighthouses, and nuclear waste

This week, hundreds of companies submitted proposals for President Donald Trump’s nebulous signature campaign promise, a wall between the United States and Mexico. The cost of this politically charged construction project, as well as the source of the funding, is still unsettled. And while Trump has made many specific proclamations about the wall, they aren’t consistent enough to give us an idea of its final form. The proposal request asks for both concrete-based walls and “other designs,” and based on several lists of proposals currently online, some submissions have taken full advantage of this latitude.

As the Associated Press notes, a lot of these submissions won’t fulfill various requirements of the contract, and it can be hard to tell how serious they even are. Some are measured, relatively reasonable proposals by major companies. Others are obvious political statements, like the Otra Nation project we profiled. And then there are ones that seem both straight-faced and terrible — like the nuclear waste obstacle course that could (but probably won’t) line our southern border. Here are a handful of exemplary ones, in descending order of plausibility.


Image: Riverdale Mills / The Wall Street Journal

The pitch

A wire mesh produced by Riverdale Mills, standing up to 20 feet tall and running up to six feet beneath the ground. Billed as “virtually impossible to climb or cut,” according to NPR.

The thought process

Trump wants something that’s “not a fence. It’s a wall.” But what are the odds he won’t notice if a contractor just builds a fence with “wall” in the name?

Could it happen?

Plausibly, depending on how literally the term “wall” gets taken. Fences are currently used along the US-Mexico border, and one February report cited numerous officials who recommended a fence instead of a wall. Riverdale also says that it’s already providing fencing for the border, as seen in the image above.

The Great Western IBW [International Border Wall]

Image: Crisis Resolution Security Services / The Wall Street Journal

The pitch

Two 26-foot-tall concrete walls with packed dirt in between and a narrow walkway at the top, “like the Great Wall of China,” according to a Chicago Tribune profile. The wall would actually be built up to 100 miles away from Mexico, using American rough terrain to the south as a “natural deterrent” buffer that could be patrolled by border security agents.

The thought process

Based on the Tribune piece, an oddly cavalier xenophobia. The head of Illinois-based Crisis Resolution Security Services calls it a “symbol of the American determination to defend our culture, our language, our heritage, from any outsiders.” You can also go bicycling on top of it. It’s all very friendly, as long as you’re not a sinister, non-English-speaking interloper.

Could it happen?

CRSS is a new company founded by a man with little experience in construction (and, incidentally, a felony conviction for abducting his children in a custody dispute). That said, it is a literal wall, and a “competing with China” angle would be the kind of shamelessly cynical ego play that just might work on Trump.

The Monorail Wall

Image: National Consulting Service / The San Diego Union-Tribune

The pitch

A traditional wall, but with a monorail on top. Strike that — a traditional wall with a monorail on top, and “voice analysis technology” to detect the emotional state of riders for law enforcement purposes.

The thought process

“No, I bet somebody already did the monorail thing. Let’s add some bizarrely intrusive experimental surveillance tech, too.”

Could it happen?

As we learned this morning, public mass transit isn’t precisely a priority for the Trump administration.

The Nuclear Waste Wall

Image: Clayton Industries / The Wall Street Journal

The pitch

A chain-link fence on the Mexican border, backed by a sensor-filled buffer zone, a 100-foot-deep trench housing storage facilities for nuclear waste, a railroad, and a 30-foot wall that would draw power from a plant that converted the waste into energy.

The thought process

Sometimes you just need to submit proposals for a federal construction project and a Duke Nukem remake on the same day, and the only program on your computer is MS Paint.

Could it happen?

On one hand, it’s a convoluted five-section security system that includes a 100-foot-deep trench with nuclear waste at the bottom. On the other, the administration’s biggest “wins” so far often involve developing byzantine processes to make visiting non-Americans suffer as much as possible for no particular reason. A toss-up.

The Lighthouse Wall

Image: J.M. Design Studios / The San Diego Union-Tribune

The pitch

A battalion of lighthouses surrounding the border, light streaming from their eerily eye-like windows and pure darkness from their all-devouring doorways.

The thought process

Part of a series of submissions from artist Jennifer Meridian, including a wall of pipe organs and a wall of hammocks, emphasizing that the border project is “preposterous for so many reasons,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Could it happen?

Could it? It must happen.

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