Panama Canal Named C.E. Monument of Millennium

Last month, just before the Panama Canal was transferred to Panama by the United, ASCE marked the auspicious occasion by declaring the world-famous waterway A Civil Engineering Monument of the Millennium.

"Unparalleled in its scope and size, the Panama Canal continues to serve as a symbol of engineering at one of its finest moments in history, inspiring generations of engineers to continually challenge those who say, 'It cant be done.'"  said President Delon Hampton.  The canal is the first project to garner distinction from ASCE as a millennium monument, but during this year it will be joined by other projects in the following 10 areas: airport design, dams, highways, long-span bridges, rail transportation, sanitary waste disposal systems, skyscrapers, wastewater treatment and disposal, water supply and distribution, and water transportation (ports and canals).

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In other remarks, Hampton said that the "canal is the greatest sea-to-sea canal of all time and the epitome of engineering ingenuity and perseverance.  It is fitting that it is the first project that ASCE chose to give this special honor." (ASCE presented a bronze plaque to the Panama Canal Authority on December 31, when the authority assumed legal control of the canal from the U.S. Panama Canal Commission.)

Earlier, ASCE had named the canal one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, a distinction it shares with the Channel Tunnel (linking England and France), the CN Tower (Toronto), the Empire State Building (New York City), the Golden Gate Bridge (San Francisco), the Italpu Dam (Brazil/Paraguay), and the Netherlands North Sea Protection Works.  These projects were selected because of their pioneering design and construction, the contributions they have made to society, and the difficulty of the engineering challenges that had to be overcome.

The Panama Canal was designated an international historic civil engineering landmark in 1984, ASCE has conferred this status on 25 such international landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, the Iron Bridge, and Hoover Dam.  Also, 169 U.S. projects have been designated national landmarks.

While the Panama Canal had been a dream of the Spanish and the French since the 1500s, it was not until the early 20th century that American engineers developed the technology that would make such a dream a reality.  the U.S. engineer John F. Stevens, the second person to be named chief engineer for the canal (and ASCE's president in 1927), designed the 50 mi system of locks, man-made lakes, and channels and utilized a massive steam shovel and a complex rail system to excavate the canal.  the project, which began in 1904, took 10 years and required 75,000 workers and almost $400 million.

ASCE News - January 2000

June 26, 2000

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