published Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Chattanooga industrial park road work carries $77 million price tag

Motorists wait at the intersection on Bonny Oaks Drive and Volkswagen Drive as the Amazon and Volkswagen shifts end. A police officer sits parked at the curb to monitor traffic.
Motorists wait at the intersection on Bonny Oaks Drive and Volkswagen Drive as the Amazon and Volkswagen shifts end. A police officer sits parked at the curb to monitor traffic.
Photo by Jenna Walker.
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FUTURE ROAD WORK


Road construction envisioned in and around Enterprise South industrial park and rough costs:

• Widening Bonny Oaks Drive: $48.8 million

• Adding lanes to Hickory Valley Road: $17 million

• New road to Volkswagen supplier park: $11.3 million

Source: TDOT, city

Steven Slatten said it hasn't been a lot of fun sitting in traffic at times after leaving his job at Volkswagen's Chattanooga plant.

When afternoon shifts change at the VW factory and nearby Amazon distribution center, traffic tangles at VW Drive and Bonny Oaks Drive can get "pretty bad," he said.

And with new businesses and expansions projected in the future for Enterprise South industrial park, the snarl is not likely to loosen up.

"There are more things to come," Slatten said.

With upwards of 5,000 people working daily in the industrial park through the Christmas season, traffic has mushroomed. Planners are looking at an array of new road projects that could cost more than $77 million, according to officials and documents.

Among the projects:

• A state study of two-lane Bonny Oaks Drive focuses on making it five lanes. A traffic study indicates the road, which runs along one side of the industrial park, will need to be multilane by 2015.

The cost to widen Bonny Oaks from Interstate 75 to Highway 153 is $48.8 million, the state Department of Transportation study shows.

• Planners are looking at widening Hickory Valley Road, which runs through Enterprise South from Bonny Oaks Drive to Highway 58, to four lanes. That work could cost $17 million, planners said.

• Construction of a 1.4-mile road from Highway 58 that connects to VW's adjacent supplier park next to the auto plant is expected to start in late 2012. A rough estimate in the county's long-range transportation plan, prior to calculating full engineering costs, puts the price tag at about $11.3 million.

"Everything is focused on the fact that we do have a lot of economic activity," said Steve Leach, Chattanooga's public works administrator. "It's a good problem to have."

Bonny Oaks

Amazon employee Danielle Paschal said she'd like to see Bonny Oaks expanded to handle the rise in vehicle traffic.

"Traffic gets backed up," she said. "I think it would be a lot better."

The TDOT report said one option is doing nothing to the road, but failing to act would add to congestion and traffic delays.

A second option is to widen Bonny Oaks for 4.9 miles from two lanes to five. The option would include sidewalks, curbs and gutters along with bike lanes, the report said.

The city has made spot improvements at some Bonny Oaks intersections, according to the report, but it didn't recommend more of those because they'll only have limited effect on traffic flow.

Jennifer Flynn, a TDOT spokeswoman, said the report is designed to streamline project development by including more information than typically needed in an environmental study should work go forward.

TDOT doesn't have a Bonny Oaks Drive improvement project in development, she said. The next step is up to the city and Hamilton County transportation planners, Flynn said.

"They must indicate if they want a project to go forward," the TDOT spokeswoman said.

She predicted the road work would be funded with 80 percent federal money and 20 percent state.

Leach said improving Bonny Oaks is "a critical piece."

"It's a huge east-west connection," he said.

While serving the industrial park, the new road also could become a development corridor for commercial and residential construction, Leach said.

Hickory Valley Road

He said it could be a couple of years before work is finished on expanding Hickory Valley Road through the industrial park.

A traffic circle or new intersection could go on the road to help future access to 1,000 acres of adjacent land that VW has under option, he said.

City Engineer Bill Payne said the improved road will aid access all the way up the west side of the VW property.

After the first of the year, environmental and design contracts for the Hickory Valley Road work are expected to come before the City Council, he said. The road is expected to be paid for by the city and county.

A new road to VW's supplier park, called State Industrial Access Road, would start near where Highway 58 connects to Clark Road, TDOT's Flynn said.

Most of the road will be two lanes but more lanes could be added later, she said. A four-lane section will cross wetlands on the site, Flynn said.

She said the state, city and county would share costs of the road work.

The new road will tie into an existing one near the supplier park from I-75, Flynn said. However, part of that artery is closed to general use so the new road won't provide direct public access from Highway 58 to I-75, she said.

The Hickory Valley Road upgrade will help improve Highway 58 access to I-75, she said.

A new five-lane road is slated to open early next year connecting Volkswagen Drive at I-75 with Apison Pike, which will help people living in the fast-growing areas of Collegedale and Ooltewah.

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about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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fftspam said...

The shortest route is not always the fastest. No where in this piece is the I75 exit mentioned that was designed and built to handle this traffic. If you don't like Bonny Oaks don't drive it. The shortest route in not always the fastest.

December 24, 2011 at 5:51 a.m.
jritland said...

I have worked at Amazon since 10/14 - nights from 6:30 - 5am. I have never had a traffic problem leaving work. I leave on time and travel NE to the new Exit 9 exit on I-75. If more would use the new exit things would change. Avoid Bonnie Oaks!! It is not designed to handle the traffic volume. VW and Amazon could talk and maybe adjust shifts so that they didn't start and end at similar times. Also this may avoid spending millions on road construction.

December 24, 2011 at 7:27 a.m.
timbo said...

VW....the gift that keeps on taking ......more and more tax dollars funded by taxpayers and small businesses to subsidize a foreign company that pays almost no texas . This is abso lutely insane.

December 24, 2011 at 11:06 a.m.
chattyjill said...

And who decided not to connect vw with CARTA service? If folks don't like traffic they can use their hovercraft. In the meantime, just a couple million worth of road repairs and paving will go much farther in our long-neglected neighborhood roads.

December 24, 2011 at 12:11 p.m.
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