By Elliott Francis
The delay in the shipment of 159 blocks of granite for the new memorial honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will not necessarily postpone construction.
Engineers for the project were hoping to have the blocks shipped from China to D.C. by May. Greece had offered to transport the material at no cost out of admiration for the civil rights leader. But the country now says it can't afford it.
Free shipping would've been nice, but not necessary, according to the memorial foundation's President, Harry Johnson.
"This was going to be a freebie that had it happened, we would have been able to take a credit off the total bill, but in terms of paying for it, it was already budgeted anyway," he says.
And as work to prepare the four-acre site on the northeast corner of the Tidal Basin continues, Johnson says he's confident the delay in shipping will not push back the project's completion date.
"Even though they were going to be shipped in May or June, work on the stone was not going to occur in America until September anyway," he says. "Having the stone sit in China, or sit in America, they were going to sit in storage for two months anyway."
Johnson says he now hopes to have the granite in this country by the end of July, and expects memorial to be finished on schedule by fall of 2011.
The group building the memorial has launched an "MLK Construction Cam" online this week to show progress on the $120 million project. The webcam feed is available here: http://www.mlkmemorial.org/earthcam