Key work to finish Volkswagen's $1 billion Chattanooga assembly plant is speeding ahead as the automaker drives toward starting production in March, officials said Tuesday.
"I think most of the country is looking at us," said Ted Mills, the Chattanooga Industrial Development Board's chairman, citing last Sunday's highly viewed Super Bowl ad on the city-made Passat.
Tuesday, the board approved a $437,000 change order for the plant's market delivery options building, lifting the cost of a Gray Construction contract to $8.18 million.
The structure, where custom items such as spoilers or special wheels will be installed on the new sedan before shipment, is about 70 percent done, said Steve Leach, the city's public works administrator.
The city, Hamilton County and the state are funding the building as part of VW's incentive package. The change order involved installing and designing security, information technology communication and fire alarm systems.
Bridge work progresses
Leach also said a large pedestrian bridge, through which nearly all of VW's 2,000-person work force will ultimately pass, is about 25 percent complete.
He said workers are putting in huge support piers. Soon, the covered bridge's large steel beams will arrive and connect the plant's reception center to a guardhouse at the training center.
The $7.25 million, 850-foot pedestrian bridge and guardhouse is expected to be finished in about three months. The steel-and-glass structure is more than one-quarter the length of the Walnut Street Bridge that spans the Tennessee River. The bridge is also paid from city, county and state funds.
Workers currently are parking near the main plant site.
Meanwhile, exterior landscaping will continue through spring, Leach said.
"That will make [the plant] look finished," he said.
New rail lines built to the plant are done, Leach said.
"The loading yard is very close," he said, adding that Norfolk Southern Railway is slated to bring in rail cars for testing.
VW officials have said that up to 85 percent of the cars assembled at the plant will be shipped by rail to dealers countrywide.
July 2008 - VW names Chattanooga as plant site
May 2009 - First wall raised
January 2010 - All buildings weather tight
June 2010 - Training center opens
January 2011 - Car unveiled at Detroit auto show