Endeavour: Crews finish up prep work for space shuttle's big move
All across South L.A. and Inglewood, signs of the space shuttle's big move are evident.
Light poles are coming down. Street closure signs are going up. Randy's Donuts is serving up shuttle-themed treats.
Crews this week put the finishing touches on months' worth of prep work needed to ready the roads for space shuttle Endeavour as it moves 12 miles from Los Angeles International Airport to the California Science Center in Exposition Park. The two-day trip begins in the pre-dawn hours Friday.
The route, which includes major thoroughfares including Manchester, Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards, looks radically different than it did months ago. Power lines have been lifted and trees have been removed. Nearly 2,700 steel plates were laid down to better distribute Endeavour's weight and protect the century-old infrastructure underneath.
About a dozen private companies have been involved in the work. Ben Monaserri led the team from Time Warner Cable, which moved about 29 aerial crossings that at 22 feet above ground level would not have been high enough for the shuttle to clear.
Monaserri said that although his crew was used to specialized projects, none compared to Endeavour.
"It's more than that," he said of describing the shuttle's move as a "once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Construction consultant Michael Volchok spent the week overseeing crews as they laid some of the final steel plates along Crenshaw Boulevard. The number of plates needed to protect city streets was so high, some were trucked in from Arizona and Nevada to meet the demand.
"The sheer number of the plates was surprising," Volchok said. "We've tapped out everything in Southern California."
Workers used forklifts to drop the plates in place and welded them down to secure them. As one crew broke for lunch at Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards, a worker turned and headed for a nearby pickup.
Embroidered on the back of his orange work vest was a space shuttle.
— Kate Mather