The president took part in the official ceremony by pushing a symbolic button and thus inaugurating the project. The construction will begin with one of the six bridges across the future canal.
"Today, we are turning a new page in Turkey's development by laying the first stone in the construction of the first bridge across the Istanbul Canal, which will be 45 kilometers [28 miles] in length, at least 275 meters [902 feet] wide and 21 meters deep," Erdogan said during the ceremony, broadcast on Twitter.
The Istanbul Canal project has been a longtime aspiration of Erdogan, as he was a mayor of the metropolis at some point. The $9.8-billion project seeks to construct a 28-mile canal linking the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara to relieve shipping pressure off the Bosphorus.