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LAX Leader Guides Airport's Massive Expansion

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"Boredom is an aspirational goal of mine," says Roger A. Johnson, deputy executive director of Los Angeles World Airports.

The task of supervising over $7 billion in reconstruction and expansion efforts at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) since 2007 has left no time for sweet lethargy for Johnson and his team.

But motivation to refurbish the airport's lost reputation as a world-class West Coast gateway helps

Roger Johnson
 keep Johnson going. His dream is to make the noted author Thomas Friedman retract his description of LAX as a "wrinkled, out-of-date" entity with "too many face-lifts."

"My goal is to put his words on a cookie and make him eat it," Johnson jokes.

To manage and mollify a dizzying array of contractors, engineers, airlines and other interests—as well as off-airport stakeholders—Johnson and his team established numerous collaborations, including a construction-and-logistics management group that is dedicated solely to the project.

Raymond Chan, interim general manager of the Los Angeles Dept. of Building and Safety, recalls brainstorming with Johnson early on. "He suggested that we should form teams to work right at LAX. Since then, things have been moving much faster," says Chan. "He has handled the program as well as can be."

Walsh-Austin Joint Venture, a major contractor on the program, praises Johnson's leadership in safety. "From the start of the project, Roger helped ensure a strong safety culture," says project principal Vince Piscopo. "Working with an owner who places a premium on safety allowed [the joint venture] to implement its own safety program with little to no difficulty."

That resulted in the top award from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration's California branch, he adds.

Providing internships to disadvantaged students on track for engineering degrees is a key goal for Johnson, who grew up with three siblings raised by a single mother.

"I know what it's like to grow up on welfare and be an at-risk kid," he says. "Teachers and others took the time to make an investment in me. I feel that's on me to do the same."

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