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340-ton rock's move from Riverside to LA stopped by red tape

January 5, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The planned move of a 340-ton boulder from a Riverside County quarry to a Los Angeles museum has run into a web of red tape.

The story of the massive chunk of granite began about five years ago at the Stone Valley Quarry in Riverside.

"It came from 180 feet up the face of our quarry, where they were drilling and blasting, and it came down as one complete piece," said Stephen Vander Hart, vice-president of operations at Stone Valley Materials, which did the drilling.

And that's pretty rare. So rare, in fact, that an artist decided to move the massive rock to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as the centerpiece of a new exhibit titled "Levitated Mass."

Artist Michael Heizer worked with the museum to acquire the enormous boulder for an estimated $120,000.

But it's been a rocky road for this project. Last year, the rock was supposed to be moved in August and the exhibit was supposed to open in November. Though the rock is ready to roll, it's still at the quarry.

The reason why lies about 20 miles west of its position: the Mission Boulevard Bridge over the 71 Freeway.

Even though the bridge is brand new, Caltrans says it's just not strong enough to support the hulking boulder. It's 21 feet tall, 16 feet wide and 680,000 pounds.

That meant planners had to choose a different route through at least three different cities.

"They had to start the permit process from scratch, so they're trying to get the process going as quick as possible because they're definitely trying to get this project done," Vander Hart said. "It's quite an undertaking."

Getting it onto a road alone is quite a process. They're going to need to build a new temporary road, clear out all of the brush, get rid of an overhead phone line and then they'll be able to move it to the main road.

"I'm going to be given a seven-day window in which we're going to build our road out of here, take down the fence and build them a temporary road to get out - and I haven't gotten that call yet," Vander Hart said.

People involved with the project hope the rock will finally hit the road by the end of January.