Chattanooga plans Enterprise South traffic upgrades

Chattanooga plans Enterprise South traffic upgrades

September 26th, 2012 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Cars back up last December during the holiday rush at Amazon in Enterprise South industrial park. With more workers being hired this year at both Amazon and Volkswagen, the city is planning to expand lanes and parking facilities for the growing companies.

Cars back up last December during the holiday...

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

Work could start within weeks on the latest effort to help Volkswagen and Amazon workers avoid traffic snarls during the busy holiday season.

Nearly 7,000 workers are expected to be on the job by Christmas at the VW and Amazon facilities in Enterprise South industrial park.

Amazon began interviewing workers Monday for the first of 250 full-time jobs the company is adding this fall, and thousands more could be hired for temporary jobs in the company's Chattanooga and Charleston, Tenn., distribution centers within the next couple of months.

Already this week, more than 100 people have applied for one of the new Amazon jobs.

At the Career Center on Tuesday, Eric Kyles said he just moved to Chattanooga from St. Louis, and an Amazon job would be a good fit for him.

"I'm familiar with it," he said about the warehouse work.

Traviun Peoples, of Chattanooga, said he'd like to land an Amazon job in part because of the benefits and steady employment the company offers.

"I'd like a good, steady job," he said.

Next month, the city will take bids to open VW's massive employee parking lot directly to Discovery Drive and speed traffic in the area.

City Engineer Bill Payne said the new link could help traffic flow by allowing employees to leave the lot without entering VW Drive, which is also used by Amazon workers.

"It could help alleviate some of the internal traffic," he said. The cost of the new access road wasn't available.

Last year, with the opening of Amazon's giant distribution center and its hiring of a large number of temporary Christmas season employees, traffic logjams entangled workers.

When afternoon shifts changed at VW and Amazon, off-duty police officers were hired and barricades were put into place to help direct drivers.

Payne said the city is continuing talks with VW and Amazon to ease traffic flow.

State plans

At the same time, the state is working with the city to improve VW Drive at both Discovery Drive and Bonny Oaks Drive.

However, those $5 million in improvements may not begin until early 2014, said Jennifer Flynn of the state Department of Transportation.

"We will continue to cooperate with the city and [Hamilton] county to assist however we can with alleviating congestion," she said.

The improvements call for adding a westbound acceleration lane on Bonny Oaks at VW Drive. Also on Bonny Oaks, changes call for adding an eastbound turn lane to provide for dual left turns on VW Drive. Other modifications are planned as well.

At the VW Drive and Discovery Drive roundabout, improvements include a second lane into the Amazon facility entrance.

Steve Leach, the city's public works administrator, said the changes will add capacity at the intersections.

"It's a good problem to have," he said about the number of people working for the companies.

Volkswagen, making room for its expanded workforce, is adding about 1,500 parking spaces at its assembly plant on the south end of the lot toward Discovery Drive.

The work will give the automaker about 4,700 parking slots, officials said. The plant is to employ about 3,500 workers by year's end.

Next spring, meanwhile, the state will start to build a $7.5 million road from Highway 58 to the rear of the Volkswagen plant near its supplier park.

But, Flynn said, the road will not provide a direct tie from Highway 58 to Interstate 75.

That four-lane connection will be provided in a project under design by the city to improve Discovery Drive and Hickory Valley Road to Highway 58, she said.