The Americans Succeed in Constructing a Canal across Panama


When the United States took over title of the French canal franchise in Panama in 1903 they approached the project with vigor and confidence, treating it as an enormous railroad engineering project. By 1907 the various excavation problems led American engineer John Stevens to redesign the project, using a series of three locks at either end to lift ships 85 feet and transit across man-made Gatun Lake. In 1908 control of the project passed to the Army Corps of Engineers, who completed the project in August 1914, excavating 225 million cubic yards of material at a cost about 260% beyond that originally envisioned, which required an additional 2-1/2 years to complete. Despite all the setbacks and cost-overruns, the project was the jewel of an emerging American empire, and its contributions to world health and sea-born commerce were without precedent.

Meeting Name

World Environmental and Water Resources Congress: Crossing Boundaries (2012: May 20-24, Albuquerque, NM)


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Army Corps Of Engineers; Cost-Overruns; Engineers; Hydraulic Structures; Water Resources

Geographic Coverage

Panama Canal

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)


Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


File Type





© 2012 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 May 2012