More than half a century later, L.A.'s Westside is all atwitter over the 405, but not about anything so gruesome as a corpse: It's the immense task of adding 10 miles of HOV lane to the northbound 405 over Sepulveda Pass, completing a carpool link from the Valley to the O.C.
He's an old hand at building bridges and freeways the length and breadth of California, including the Carquinez Straits bridge in Northern California. His all-time favorite bridges: the Golden Gate, and whatever he's working on right now.
California drivers get a bad rap. Do you think we deserve it?
I've driven in worse places. [We're] actually probably better drivers because there's so much traffic. Just the amount of people, the cars, the lanes, the difficulty of driving in this area -- that's tough. Having people carpool, having mass transit -- I think there's an overall benefit. I'm not a proponent of paving over L.A.. I'm more of a "let's be smart about what construction we do and minimize the impact we have." Carpools are a great part of that. Will they transition to something else? Maybe there'll be rail coming down the freeways at some point.
This isn't an abstract exercise for you. You grew up driving these freeways -- including the one you're widening now.
I grew up in the San Pedro-Long Beach area. When I was 16, I used to drive to Costa Mesa. My dad owned a tropical fish store down there, and I used to work there, so I've been on the freeways a long time.
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How did you get into this business?
I was good at math, so when I got out of the Marines in 1980, engineering sounded like it paid OK, and it was more outdoors, and I liked that. When I got out of school, it was 1983. There was nobody being hired except [by] Caltrans. I took a job with Caltrans structure and design.
While you were at Caltrans, you did what?
Caltrans had one of the best training programs for engineers you could ever do. Six months in design, six months in construction and the rest of the rotation would be in highway design or geo-technical or maintenance work. You got to work with all the different groups, and you got a good understanding of all the aspects of engineering. I definitely enjoy the construction. I like the construction crews. I like working with these guys. As far as design goes, I like seeing projects built. Really the biggest thing, whatever you're doing, is, do you see it get built?
Do you get to put your initials somewhere in the concrete? Anyone who's ever poured a sidewalk has done that.
I've got [one of] those at my house. All my kids -- everybody's on it. My dog walked on it. I had one job where some Caltrans guys wanted to put their initials on a sound wall -- that was a no-no.
At a bit over a billion dollars, is this the biggest project you've done?
I guess dollar-wise, it's absolutely the biggest job, but I've been involved in suspension bridges in Northern California, the Carquinez . I've been involved with interchanges here in L.A., several of them. The [Highway] 30-[Interstate] 15 interchange came out of my design section.
Ever get to write a really, really big check?
The first check we gave the  contractor was, I think, $30-something million. I made a copy!
You spent time in Iraq in 2003, working with the coalition provisional authority.