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International Conference on Asphalt and Traffic

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The 2020 Ed Rapp Leadership in Action Award is presented to

Paul D. Kovacs, P.E.

Chief Engineering Officer,

Illinois Tollway

for his true leadership.

Since joining the Illinois Tollway in 1999, Paul Kovacs has greatly influenced planning, development and implementation of multi-billion dollar capital programs by emphasizing customer service, safety, sustainability, innovation and opportunities for small, diverse and veteran-owned firms.

Mr. Kovacs is responsible for delivering about $20 billion in capital improvements, including the current $14 billion Move Illinois Program and the $5.8 billion Congestion-Relief Program completed on time and within budget in 2016. These investments enabled the Tollway to essentially rebuild its entire system and add three new tollroads – the south extension of the Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355), the Illinois Route 390 Tollway and the I-490 Tollway.

Safety, efficiency and innovation are hallmarks of Mr. Kovacs’ leadership. Prior to being named chief engineer in 2007, he led the systemwide conversion of 20 old-style barrier toll plazas to open road tolling. Completed in 2006 under an aggressive two-year schedule, open road tolling resulted in fewer traffic delays, improved safety and less pollution with nonstop travel at highway speeds. More recently, he led the implementation of SmartRoad active traffic management as part of the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) Rebuilding and Widening Project to make travel safer and more efficient for Tollway customers.

Mr. Kovacs has been instrumental to creating greater opportunities for small, diverse and veteran-owned firms to participate on Tollway projects. Working with the agency’s Department of Diversity and Strategic Development from its inception in 2011, he has participated and supported numerous outreach events and led efforts to unbundle larger contracts into smaller jobs to create contract opportunities for firms of all sizes and types. These opportunities have resulted in more new firms and more diversity on Tollway projects than ever before.

“In my 20 years of service at the Illinois Tollway, I have been extremely fortunate to have the support and cooperation of dedicated and professional staff, co-workers and leadership combined with excellent services provided by Illinois’ engineering community and construction industry,” said Mr. Kovacs. “Together, we have formed a great team and enjoyed the delivery of numerous significant capital improvements, which will provide long-term benefits to our customers and communities throughout Northern Illinois.”

Congratulations to Paul on receiving this award wishing him continued success. We very much appreciate his effort with the ICAT speakers, Chairing the ICAT Transportation Board, and hosting Bradley Students.  Dr. Al-Khafaji