Illinois Tollway CEO Honored With OPAL Award

Paul D. Kovacs, P.E., M.ASCE, chief engineering officer for the Illinois Tollway as well as it and the Engineering department’s representative to all federal, state, and local governments, industry, regulatory agencies, and the public, has been honored by ASCE as the Outstanding Projects And Leaders award-winner in government.

The ASCE OPAL awards honor outstanding civil engineering leaders for their lifetime accomplishments. This year’s OPAL winners will be recognized at the 2019 OPAL Gala, March 14, in Arlington, VA.

Headshot of Paul D. Kovacs

Kovacs has handled his position, a demanding one, quite capably in the service of a mission to deliver safe, reliable, and cost-effective product for all users, while challenging engineering firms to be innovative and on-time. He recently led 540 firms (415 construction companies and 125 professional engineering services firms) to completion under-budget of the I-90 Jane Addams Memorial Tollway Rebuilding and Widening Project – a total cost of $2.5 billion. The project introduced SmartRoad technologies and won several top awards.

His 17 previous years with an engineering consulting firm cultivated in him the leadership skills he has employed at Illinois Tollway for the past 18. When the ambitious capital project Move Illinois: The Illinois Tollway Driving the Future was embarked on, Kovacs became responsible for delivering improvements that will dramatically enhance transportation for millions of people living in or traveling through the Chicago region every day. He was also involved with 2016’s Open Roads for a Faster Future, a $5.8 billion congestion-relief program.

Kovacs is equally dedicated to the safety of the motoring public and those who work on the roadways. He led the systemwide conversion of 20 old-style barrier toll plazas to open-road tolling as ORT manager and deputy chief engineer of project implementation. This meant fewer traffic delays, less pollution, and heralded the first cashless tolling roadway, scheduled for completion in 2025.

As part of the effort to minimize the impact of construction on customers, the Tollway’s standard practice is to keep as many lanes open during construction as were before. Kovacs has spearheaded sustainability as integral to building roads and bridges that provide high quality over a long period of time. One example is the incorporation of stainless steel rebar in bridge decks and the use of jointless decks.

Kovacs initiated the 30-hour OSHA training for 51 Tollway engineering and consulting staff. This and other measures have bolstered the prevention of accidents on sites and helped drivers make informed choices when traveling through long-term work zones. These policies have remained compatible with the firm’s aggressive construction schedules and fiscally sound approach. The Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association (IRTBA) has worked with Kovacs on a variety of projects and found him to be an exemplary leader.

He was named Government Civil Engineer of the Year in 2007 by the ASCE Illinois Section. He also received the WTS Greater Chicago Chapter Honorable Ray LaHood Award in 2018, the Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association’s Person of the Year Award in 2015, and the March of Dimes Professional Honoree Award in 2014.

Kovacs earned a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Illinois and is a registered professional engineer in Illinois and Michigan.

Learn more about the 2019 OPAL Gala.


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