published Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Last leg of VW-Highway 58 link starts soon

The Chattanooga Volkswagen plant is seen in this aerial photograph taken in March 2012.
The Chattanooga Volkswagen plant is seen in this aerial photograph taken in March 2012.
Photo by Dan Henry.

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Bids for construction of the state industrial access road at Enterprise South industrial park are slated for opening on May 24.

Work on the last piece of Chattanooga's version of the Yellow Brick Road is slated to start this summer.

The $6.5 million road project will directly link the Volkswagen plant with state Highway 58 and help ease traffic jams around the factory, officials said.

But, the public initially won't be offered access on the new road all the way from Highway 58 to Interstate 75. Key connector arteries near the plant will remain closed except for VW-related traffic, an official said.

"It will help out VW and reduce some traffic congestion in the existing roads," said Scott Medlin, a transportation project manager for the state Department of Transportation.

The Yellow Brick Road route was so dubbed a couple of decades ago because it was seen as opening up the then mostly vacant 6,000-acre Enterprise South industrial park to a major industrial employer.

On Tuesday, Chattanooga officials approved a couple of land easements that will help clear the way for the new 1.36-mile road, which is expected to be ready by September 2014.

The city's Industrial Development Board agreed to the easements for the artery that will run from Clark Road's intersection at Highway 58 to the rear of the VW supplier park.

City Engineer Bill Payne said the road will go over a 52-acre wetlands on Enterprise South property.

He said there are beaver, deer and other wildlife in the area. The conservation easement granted to Hamilton County calls for keeping the property in a natural state in the future.

But, Medlin said the road will be two lanes except through the wetlands area where it will be four lanes at the request of the city and Hamilton County. That way, the section is already set to handle any future expansion of the rest of the road, he said.

Medlin said the city and county didn't want to go back to get new permitting from state and federal agencies for an expansion. As a result, the city and county are chipping in about $233,000 to add the lanes through the wetlands, Medlin said.

He said the remainder of the road's cost will come from the state.

Medlin said that while the road will be public, it primarily will be used for employees and suppliers coming in from Highway 58. He said it would connect with a ring road at the VW plant which hooks into roads currently serving the supplier park.

"You may have to make a few turns leading to Ferdinand Piech Drive," Medlin said. That road leads from the supplier park to Volkswagen Drive, which goes to I-75.

At Highway 58, plans are to put up a traffic signal, he said.

While Medlin said the new road won't directly tie Highway 58 with I-75 for the general public, officials have a different plan. A four-lane connection for people driving through Enterprise South eventually is to be provided by improving Discovery Drive and Hickory Valley Road and offering a route that goes around the plant.

The opening of the VW plant, its supplier park and nearby Amazon distribution center since 2011 at times overwhelmed the Enterprise South road system. To alleviate traffic jams which occurred at peak travel times, the city has made some key changes and more are planned.

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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