Top Ten Public Works Projects of the Century

APWA developed the Top Ten Public Works Projects of the Century program to honor the ten most outstanding public works projects of the 20th Century that significantly affected and improved the quality of life in the United States or Canada. Our goal was to generate awareness of the positive contributions public works has made as well as to build appreciation for public works and its contributions to North America.

The program considered public works contributions from projects of all sizes and agencies of all levels of government within the United States, Canada, and their territories. Projects did not still need to be in existence or actively used to be eligible.

Criteria used in the selection

The primary criterion used in the selection of these winners was the significance of the project’s effect on the quality of life. Other criteria that were used during the selection included:

  • An assessment of the improvements and advancement the project provided, as well as how well the project addressed public needs and met the defined objectives.
  • The degree of difficulty that designers, builders, or operators overcame in the design, construction, or operation of the project.
  • The circumstances that existed during the era in which they occurred.
  • The use of innovative or pioneering techniques, materials, management systems, or operating approaches. Consideration was given to projects that represented a “first of its kind” or where the profession and industry standards were advanced.
  • Awareness and protection of the natural and social environment.

Not only is this a celebration of past accomplishments, it is also an illustration of our potential to create extraordinary public works projects for future generations.

The first announcement of the top public works projects of the 20th Century occurred on September 10 during the Opening General Session of APWA’s International Public Works Congress and Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky. These ten exemplary projects are listed below in no particular order. Beginning with the December/January issue of the APWA Reporter and continuing through October 2001, one project will be highlighted in each issue.

  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • The Grand Coulee Dam and Columbia Basin Project
  • St. Lawrence Seaway/Power Project
  • Interstate Highway System
  • The Hoover Dam
  • Hyperion Treatment Plant
  • The Reversal of the Chicago River
  • Tennessee Valley Project
  • The Panama Canal
  • The Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART)