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ASCE Announces 2023 Outstanding Projects and Leaders Award Winners and Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Nominees

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) announced today its 2023 recipients of the Society’s Outstanding Projects and Leadership (OPAL) awards, which recognize lifetime achievement in each of four categories: construction, education, government, and management. These individuals have advanced the civil engineering profession and enhanced their communities through innovative ideas, superb leadership, and a dedication to furthering the education of future civil engineers.

The Society also announced 11 recipients of its 2023 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement (OCEA) Award nominations, which recognize exemplary civil engineering projects throughout the country. The award honors projects which exemplify state-of-the-art engineering skill and provide considerable contributions to local and regional communities, in addition to advancements of the civil engineering profession. A winner and two runners-up will be chosen during the OPAL Gala, which is scheduled for October 20, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois at ASCE’s 2023 Convention. ASCE’s second IMAX film, Cities of the Future, will also be premiering at the time of convention. While OCEA nominees represent modern advancements in civil engineering, Cities of the Future will use ASCE’s Future World Vision research to demonstrate how civil engineers are reinventing tomorrow – planning 50 years into the future, reimagining infrastructure, and forging a sustainable future. OPAL Award winners will also be recognized at the gala.

“ASCE is honored to showcase the best and brightest projects across the U.S. through our OCEA nominees,” said Maria Lehman, P.E., 2023 President, ASCE. “This year’s nominees push the boundaries of what we believed to be possible as civil engineers and exemplify excellence in the field, but they could not be completed without extraordinary people behind them. Our OPAL award recipients have inspired future engineers, led state-of-the-art projects and teams, and have introduced innovative practices to the field. Breath-taking projects and thriving communities are driven by leaders like them. Congratulations to all honorees.”

The 2023 OPAL leadership award recipients are as follows:
  • Construction – James E. Rowings, Jr., Ph.D., P.E., NAC, F.ASCE, professional development director, Kiewit University – for innovation and excellence in construction of civil engineering projects and programs. Rowings, Jr. has served as President of the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering (AACE) International, Chairman of the Engineering Management Group in ASCE, and Chairman of the DBIA Education and Research Foundation. During his academic career, Rowings, Jr. taught every fundamental construction engineering course and many graduate courses. 
  • Education – Kumares C. Sinha, Ph.D., P.E., Hon.M.ASCE, NAE, the Edgar B. and Hedwig M. Olson Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering, Purdue University – for demonstrated excellence in furthering civil engineering education. Some of his work has informed pavement, bridge and safety management systems developed by AASHTO and the US Army Corps of Engineers and has contributed to vital improvements in the service life of highway facilities. Dr. Sinha has taught hundreds of civil engineers around the world through higher education and continuing professional education. He also serves as editor-in-chief emeritus, ASCE Journal of Transportation Engineering.  
  • Government – Karen Durham-Aguilera, P.E., M.ASCE, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery – for demonstrated leadership of public sector projects and programs. Durham-Aguilera has spent 6 years as HQ Army Principal Official and 34 years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, receiving several awards along the way such as Secretary of the Army Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service; Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Service; Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Service, Silver Order (2010) and Bronze Order (2006) on the DeFleury Medal; and Secretary of Defense Medal for the Global War on Terrorism.
  • Management – Mary Ellen Bruce Large, P.E., D.GE, M.ASCE., client care manager, Nicholson Construction Company – for exceptional management skills in her professional career.  At Nicholson, she focuses on strengthening relationships with current clients and developing new relationships and partnerships across several markets.  Large served as director of technical activities for Deep Foundations Institute (DFI), and is the executive director of International Society for Micropiles (ISM).  She is the founder and president of Geotechnica, s.a., Inc., a geotechnical engineering consultancy. 

The 2023 OCEA nominees are as follows:

  • Ager Road, Green-Complete Streets Project (Hyattsville, MD) – The first of its kind in Prince George’s County, Maryland, the Ager Road, Green-Complete Streets Project improved the safety, functionality, and aesthetics of a vital part of the region’s transportation network. The project includes roadway modifications (with a “road diet” to reduce speeding), greater greenspaces, and pedestrian facilities.
  • C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area (Indiantown, FL) – The first part of the Indian River Lagoon South Restoration, the C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area mitigates the damaging effects of nutrient and freshwater discharge from Lake Okeechobee. Over 100 miles of embankments, canals, and berms, the project includes a pump station, communications tower, and reservoir control structure.
  • Climate Pledge Arena (Seattle, WA) – The historic KeyArena, built in 1962, has undergone a $930 million renovation and expansion. The resulting Climate Pledge Arena is an 800,000-square-foot venue, holding more than 17,000 fans for hockey, basketball, concerts, and other events. Despite a near-total demolition of the structure below the roof, engineers manages to preserve the historically landmarked 44-million-pound roof structure and exterior curtain wall.  
  • Council Bluffs Interstate System Dual, Divided Freeway (Council Bluffs, IA) – The $1.5 billion, 14-mile Council Bluffs Interstate System Improvement Program is the first major improvement since the road’s 1960 construction and the largest urban interstate reconstruction by Iowa DOT. It accommodates development, reduces congestion, improves mobility, and increases safety, highlighted by a 3-mile dual, divided freeway – the area’s first. The teams also had to move multiple rail lines to accommodate the program, using the construction as an opportunity to consolidate four main lines into a common corridor. 
  • Delta Air Lines Terminal C (Queens, NY) – Once completed, the new $4 billion, 1.3-million-square-foot terminal at LaGuardia Airport will consist of 37 aircraft gates distributed among four concourses connected by a centralized, state-of-the-art headhouse. It marks one of the largest redevelopments of an American airport in more than 25 years.
  • Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal Phase 1 (Charleston, SC) – The $1 billion, 135-acre Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal Phase 1 is the nation’s first greenfield container terminal to open in a decade and will ease supply-chain congestion throughout the Southeast United States. It features a 1,400-foot berth and a 47-acre, 700,000-TEU container yard.
  • I-579 Urban Open Space Cap (Pittsburgh, PA) – The new 3-acre urban green space reconnects Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District with the city’s downtown business and cultural center. With integrated art elements designed by local artists, the park includes story walls sharing the history of the neighborhood, as well as performance spaces, bike paths, and outdoor classroom space.
  • Mukilteo Multimodal Ferry Terminal (Mukilteo, WA) – A truly multimodal facility, the new terminal marries ferry, car, truck, train, bus, bike, and pedestrian access into a single hub. The Mukilteo Ferry Terminal was designed to be “light on the earth,” considering the site’s cultural significance to the native people of the Salish Sea.
  • The Pavilion at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA) – Opened in the autumn of 2021, the new pavilion enhances the public’s experience, reflects the historic campus location, and resonates with the existing hospital complex. It is the largest project in Penn Medicine’s history – a $1.6 billion, 17-story state-of-the-art hospital facility.
  • Rockefeller Refuge Gulf Shoreline Stabilization (Gran Chenier, LA) – The Rockefeller Refuge Shoreline Stabilization protects one of the country’s most productive marshland research laboratories, reducing the quantity and severity of waves hitting the shoreline while gaps allow organism, water, and sediment movement between gulf and marsh.
  • SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, CA) – Home to the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers and Rams football teams, SoFi Stadium is the world’s first indoor-outdoor stadium. The stadium, which will host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2028 Summer Olympics, is one of three venues – along with American Airlines Plaza and YouTube Theater – all under a single enormous transparent canopy roof.

For more information on ASCE’s OPAL and OCEA honors go to (OPAL) or (OCEA). To learn more about the 2023 ASCE Convention in Chicago, IL, follow