published Thursday, March 18th, 2010

County OKs contracts for rail work at VW plant


by Chris Carroll
Audio clip

County commission meeting

Gearing up for business at the Volkswagen assembly plant, Hamilton County commissioners accepted three contract bids for rail work to benefit the factory.

County engineers said the railroad upgrade was part of the agreement to build the $1 billion plant at Enterprise South industrial park.

"The initial push for VW had 150,000 cars per year produced," county engineer Todd Leamon said. "These improvements have to be made for the rail to pull out that many cars a year."

Together, the three bids will cost about $6 million. Officials said each is expected to be completed by May 2011, the anticipated start date for production at Volkswagen.

One contract is to build a support yard at Enterprise South to prepare rail cars before they are loaded with finished vehicles. A second contract hired a company to improve rail lines already in place at the industrial park.

The most time-consuming project involves expanding railroad bridges over Bonny Oaks Drive so a high volume of new vehicles can leave the factory.

Initial construction already has begun. County workers said they plan to create detours around the construction, but not all the details are hammered out.

Commissioner Greg Beck, who represents the area, said some of his constituents have complained about traffic backups during construction times.

"I was down there yesterday, and it was very congested," Mr. Beck said. "But all of the powers that be are working on that problem right now."

Mr. Leamon said he and other engineers are working on a plan that would deal strictly with long-term traffic problems near the factory. Part of that plan could involve widening Bonny Oaks.

Volkswagen is expected to hire about 2,000 workers, but several commissioners estimated that at least 8,000 other jobs will result from industrial suppliers coming to town who will use the rails.

"Give us a chance," Mr. Beck said. "People are going to be proud of what's going on out there."

IN OTHER BUSINESS

Hamilton County commissioners voted for two resolutions for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and Emergency Medical Services. They approved about $15,000 to buy 10 Tasers for the sheriff's office and about $39,000 for six defibrillators for EMS.

The commissioner said a "resurrection" of business development is in store throughout the Highway 58 area.

County Mayor Claude Ramsey said he is proud the county moved forward on strengthening aspects of the Volkswagen project and urged others to be patient.

"I don't know of any way to build a bridge over roads without inconvenience," he said. "But it will afford us opportunities for generations to come -- jobs and more investment."

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