Original History

Walter E. Hanson envisioned a company that could change the landscapes of communities through smart local and global projects.

He built a company that valued quality service, intellectual curiosity, integrity and leadership. Those core values have helped shape our company, which has retained the name of its founder and, more importantly, reflects his profound influence on employees and clients and the services we provide around the world.

headshot of Walter E. Hanson
Walter E. Hanson

As an educator, author, practicing engineer and business owner, Walt was instrumental in promoting and advancing the engineering profession, researching new techniques and theories and completing important engineering and infrastructure projects in Illinois and around the world.

As the co-author of “Foundation Engineering,” Walt’s knowledge about and insight into foundation design and construction has affected and influenced students and engineers worldwide. Walt co-authored the textbook with University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign professors Ralph B. Peck and Thomas H. Thornburn. “Foundation Engineering” is still used by practicing engineers and students and has been translated into several languages.

A consulting engineering firm established

In 1954, Walt founded Walter E. Hanson and Associates in Springfield, Illinois, in a partnership with two of his former University of Illinois students and civil engineers, Roland D. “Dean” Collins and Marcus J. Rice. The new company’s first job included designing 56 bridges on the Kansas Turnpike. The startup then focused on bridge design and structural engineering projects in the Midwest. 

In the 1960s, the firm opened its second office in Peoria, Illinois, and expanded its services to include foundation engineering and more broad-based civil engineering projects. Hanson also was instrumental in the build-out of AT&T communications facilities throughout the U.S. during this decade.

Joint ventures were formed during the 1960s and 1970s that allowed Hanson to grow in the industry, entering into railroad, intermodal and transportation work. One venture, Hanson-Rodriguez S.A., took the company to the Dominican Republic and expanded the firm’s hydro services.

In 1972, Hanson became employee-owned, which remains one of the company’s defining characteristics. As Hanson’s staff grew, the company required larger headquarters and moved into a new building at 1525 S. Sixth St. in Springfield.

photo of Hanson headquarters building
Hanson's Springfield, Illinois, headquarters

Hanson continued its growth, opening multiple offices across the United States. Environmental waste management services were added, and a joint venture in Seattle allowed the company to offer services for nuclear facility site characterization. As the use of computer technology increased in the industry, Hanson added computer-aided design and drafting services. With two acquisitions and a merger, the aviation and telecommunications divisions were formed, and the firm’s consulting work entered the architectural, electrical and mechanical fields. 

A joint venture in Anchorage, Alaska, led to the creation of Hanson Alaska LLC. Other acquisitions include Jacksonville, Florida-based Bowen Civil Engineering; Texas-based Naismith Engineering Inc.; McHenry, Illinois-based Engineered Rail Solutions; and Maitland, Florida-based Amherst Consulting Co. Hanson also formed a partnership with Infrastructure Solutions Inc., the developer of an asset management and capital planning software, to help clients with their capital improvement plans.

Projects and progress

Through the decades, the firm has been involved with many notable projects, including work across Illinois, such as the Old State Capitol State Historic Site’s underground parking complex, Lincoln Home restoration, Capital City Railroad Relocation project and Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, all in Springfield; Clark Bridge on the Mississippi River near Alton, Illinois; design of BNSF Railway Co.’s Willow Springs Intermodal Facility in Hodgkins, Illinois; two taxiway bridges at the MidAmerica St. Louis Airport at Scott Air Force Base near Belleville, Illinois; environmental impact statements for the Illinois High-Speed Rail Chicago to St. Louis program; and transmission line river crossings for Ameren Transmission’s Illinois Rivers Project in Illinois and Missouri.

photo of Clark Bridge
Clark Bridge, near Alton, Illinois

Other projects in the U.S. include the design of the Ruck-a-Chucky Bridge in California; underpinning for the nuclear cogeneration plant in Midland, Michigan, and for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority; the BNSF intermodal facility in Memphis, Tennessee; site investigations for the U.S. Department of Defense Ground Wave Emergency Network; the Paducah and Louisville Railroad bridge at the Kentucky Dam; Project Hoosier Safely Acting for Everyone Together (SAFE-T) in Indiana; broadcast facilities at One World Trade Center in New York City; the Alaska Railroad Corp. northern extension, which includes design of the Tanana River bridge in Salcha, Alaska; and the New York Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Emergency Radio Communications System.

The firm’s engineers not only have worked in the U.S.; they also have supplied consulting services on dozens of projects in more than 50 countries around the globe, including projects such as the Sabaneta Dam and Rincon Dam in the Dominican Republic, the Voice of America transmission facility on Sao Tome Island and facilities for other stations globally and a wide variety of liquefied natural gas facilities internationally. Visit our project portfolio to see highlights of other projects we’ve worked on over the years.

In 2019, we celebrated our company’s 65th anniversary. Things have definitely changed since Walt created our firm, but what hasn’t changed is our focus on and service to our clients, employees and projects.


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