Work might not fix Enterprise South jam-ups before 2013

Work might not fix Enterprise South jam-ups before 2013

June 15th, 2012 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Enterprise South

Enterprise South

Photo by Laura McNutt /Times Free Press.

City and state officials are trying to fix traffic jams for Volkswagen and Amazon at Enterprise South industrial park as its streets are likely to handle upward of 7,000 workers a day by year's end.

But key proposed changes such as adding lanes to a pair of intersections on Volkswagen Drive may not be ready for the critical end-of-the-year time period.

"It will probably be next year at the earliest," said state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn.

Because VW and Amazon are hiring more workers, the road project is eligible for state money, but the cost isn't known yet, officials said.

In the last few months of 2011, when Amazon ramped up for its busy Christmas season and VW grew production, workers experienced traffic tie-ups during shift changes.

This year, more employees than ever will be driving to and from the work sites. VW is hiring 1,000 more employees by year's end and pushing its head count to 3,500. Some VW suppliers also are hiring.

Meanwhile, Amazon has expanded inside its massive distribution center and plans to increase the number of workers. Currently, it has 2,000 employees and it likely will hire hundreds as seasonal employees.

Officials made short-term changes to help traffic at the industrial park last fall, including installing directional signs, stationing police or security at key points to route vehicles and re-striping some lanes.

City Engineer Bill Payne said city and state officials plan to meet with VW and Amazon this summer to discuss how to address potential traffic snarls later this year.

"This is the time to start planning what you think Christmas and holiday shifts might look like," he said.

But, Payne said that since both companies are adding jobs, what worked in 2011 might not do so this year.

Adding lanes

Longer term, the city and state are looking at changes at the busy Volkswagen Drive-Bonny Oaks Drive intersection as well as at a roundabout in front of Amazon at VW Drive and Discovery Drive, officials said.

Payne said more turn lanes could be added to allow people to go from the industrial park onto Bonny Oaks Drive faster. Also, he said Bonny Oaks could be widened for a short distance.

Meanwhile, the roundabout could add a lane while the approaches to it could be widened, Payne said.

"It would give everybody a place to go," he said.

John Van Winkle, the city's traffic engineer, said another possibility is adding a lane at the roundabout where VW Drive near the supplier park turns toward Interstate 75.

"It could be like a right turn bypass lane at the roundabout," he said.

Flynn said the changes near Amazon and Bonny Oaks will need an environmental assessment and the work must be designed. That could push construction into 2013, she said.

Longer term

More extensive road work is approved or under consideration by officials to help traffic flow in the industrial park.

Construction of a 1.4-mile road from Highway 58 to VW's supplier park could start late this year, having a price tag of $11.3 million not including full engineering costs, officials have said.

Also, a state study has showed that Bonny Oaks may need to have lanes added by 2015. It's estimated that could cost $48.8 million to make the two-lane road five lanes from I-75 to Highway 153.

In addition, planners are looking at widening Hickory Valley Road through the industrial park from two to four lanes, which could cost $17 million, officials have said.