Nearly two years after construction was completed on an Interstate 75 interchange near Ooltewah, work will begin this fall on a road to connect the interchange with the site of Volkswagen’s new $1 billion plant, officials said Friday.
Chattanooga City Engineer Bill Payne said bids should go out next month for the first of two grading contracts to lay the groundwork for the proposed four-lane, divided road that will run about a mile from the new interchange to Enterprise South Boulevard near the VW plant site.
The roadwork is part of at least $40 million of infrastructure improvements planned by local utilities and governments in and around the Volkswagen site in the next couple of years as the automaker prepares to begin car production by 2011.
“All the federal funds and the local match are already available for this road,” Mr. Payne said. “We’re just waiting for all the approvals to move forward.”
The federal government will pay for 80 percent of the estimated cost of the road to and through the Enterprise South industrial park from a fiscal 2006 appropriation of $17.2 million secured by U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn.
The first segment of the new road runs from I-75 to the northwest for about a mile to connect with the road to the VW plant. Mr. Payne said he hopes the entire 6.5-mile road through Enterprise South to Highway 58 will be finished by the time Volkswagen begins vehicle production.
The interchange at mile marker 9 on I-75 was completed in late 2006. But the connector road for the interchange was stalled after the Metropolitan Planning Organization put in the wrong paperwork and the project was dropped from the state’s Transportation Improvement Program list.
Subsequently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopted new regulations that require additional approvals for the project, Mr. Payne said.
Despite such delays, Chattanooga’s highway connections for its Enterprise South site were still far more complete than a rival site for the Volkswagen plant near Interstate 65 in Limestone County, Ala. The interstate connection, dual rail service and the size of the already cleared megasite helped Chattanooga recruit Volkswagen, Mayor Ron Littlefield said.
“We made the investments early and that paid off,” Mr. Littlefield said.
Staff Photo by Tim Barber
A Tennessee Department of Transportation Highway Incident Response Unit turns back toward Interstate 75 after exiting at the planned Enterprise South east entrance. This view looks west toward the former Volunteer Army Ammunitions property.
The city and county also are preparing to spend more than $3 million to upgrade the rail lines at Enterprise South for Volkswagen. The Hamilton County Railroad Authority owns the tracks, which were acquired from the former Volunteer Army Ammunitions Plant. The rail lines connect to both the Norfolk Southern and CSX lines, Mr. Littlefield said.
Trevor Hamilton, vice president of economic development at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, said Bonny Oaks Drive west of Enterprise South probably will be widened in the future. But initially, the city and county are focusing on the four-lane connector road, along with temporary construction roads into the site.
EPB also is preparing to spend $16 million to build a new electric substation to serve Volkswagen, EPB President Harold DePriest said.
Volkswagen will get its water from the Eastside Utility District, which operates its water filtration plant on the same former Army munitions plant area that the city and county used to carve out Enterprise South.
“We have a 30-inch, a 24-inch and a 12-inch line through this property,” Eastside General Manager Don Stafford said. “All VW has to do is tell us where they want their meter.”