The first pair of six massive coke drums slowly inched their way up Pacific Coast Highway and Sepulveda Boulevard Wednesday night from Redondo Beach to El Segundo's Chevron oil refinery.
The drums completed their 4.5-mile journey shortly after 2 a.m. when they made the final turn into the refinery at the intersection of Pacific and Rosecrans Avenue in Manhattan Beach.
According to Chevron public and government affairs manager Rod Spackman, the first move went off without a hitch and even finished earlier than expected.
"It went very smooth all in all," Spackman said. "Things moved very well."
Although the drums mainly traveled through the early morning hours, small groups of curious spectators were found scattered along the route. Some parked their cars at nearby parking lots while others spilled out of local bars – some of the few businesses still open at the hour.
Outside of the Pacific Palms apartments in Hermosa Beach, apartment manager Eileen Burkey stood outside in her pajamas along with other residents who hoped to catch a closer glimpse at the oddity passing by.
"I have been here almost 20 years and I have never seen anything like this," Burkey said. "This is something we won't see again."
Unknown to Burkey though, she will be seeing the same thing happen twice more over the next two weeks.
Chevron plans to repeat the exact process next Wednesday and the Wednesday after that as four more drums must be moved from Redondo's King Harbor to the refinery.
Measuring 100 feet long and 28 feet wide, the transportation of the drums is an engineering feat that requires careful planning and coordination between multiple state and local agencies.
While Spackman kept tight lipped on how much the move was costing Chevron, he did say that not including police, more than 250 people worked to move the drums Wednesday night alone.
Police from Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, El Segundo and Hawthorne all assisted the California Highway Patrol in escorting the drums down Pacific Coast Highway.
Weighing more than 860,000 pounds each, the drums and their transporter required that Chevron carefully analyze how the weight would affect the infrastructure and roads of each beach city.
To do so, Chevron hired Plump Engineering, the same company that helped meticulously plan the movement of both Space Shuttle Endeavour and the 340-ton LACMA rock through the streets of Los Angels.
For the past 12 months, Plump planned how to best safeguard roadways, sewer lines, underground utilities and above ground wires and poles during the transportation of the drums.
“At this stage, we have this transportation process down to a science; however, with the coke drum project, moving six gigantic objects verses one required special planning and a detailed, time-sensitive schedule," said Plump Engineering principal Richard Plump. "There is a lot of complexity involved in preparing and conducting a move of this scale."
Spackman said that street lights and power lines were replaced all the way to the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Artesia Boulevard by 2:30 a.m. and the rest of the route would be repaired before 5 a.m.
The next big move will occur beginning at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 27.
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