With more than 7,500 people now working daily at Enterprise South industrial park, the state's highway builders are finalizing steps to finish the so-called Yellow Brick Road through the site.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation is aiming to bring the road online even as a slew of more employees are coming to the area. Volkswagen, Amazon, Gestamp and Tag Manufacturing among others are in hiring mode as well as the major new FedEx facility next to the industrial park.
TDOT is nailing down the environmental permits that will lead to building the last 1.4-mile leg of the road that will provide motorists with the most direct link between Interstate 75 and Highway 58 through the industrial park.
TDOT spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said the connection between the key arteries won't only serve companies in Enterprise South but residents and businesses in the Harrison area.
"Additionally, it would be another option for those living in the Collegedale-Apison area to access State Road 58," she said.
› Major tenants: Volkswagen, Amazon, Gestamp, ADM, Plastic Omnium, Tug Manufacturing.
› Total employment: Enterprise South businesses collectively employ more than 7,500 workers.
› History: Developed as the Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant in World War II, the military facility was once the largest TNT production plant in the country and supplied munitions through the Korean and Vietnam wars.
›2005: Year when Enterprise South industrial park was certified a megasite
› 7,353 acres: Size of former Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant and buffer zone established in 1941
› 1,200 acres: Property for which VW had an option to purchase for future expansion
›300 acres: Size of tract VW is releasing to city and county from its 1,200-acre property option
› 250 acres: Maximum number of the 300 that are developable
› 2,800 acres: Size of Enterprise South Nature Park
The cost of the last 1.4-mile section is $9.7 million, Flynn said. That includes engineering and design, right-of-way acquisition and construction. She said some retaining walls will be needed on the project, which helped drive up the cost.
State officials hope to let construction contracts next spring or summer, Flynn said.
Construction of the road began in 2013 and should be completed by 2020, Flynn said.
Since the Volkswagen plant was announced in 2008 for the industrial park, the 7,000-acre facility has seen a flurry of companies land at the site in both automotive and non-automotive business pursuits.
Gestamp, which supplies VW and other auto plants in the South with stamped parts and additional products, is expected to jump from 634 employees to about 800 people by 2020, said John Petroni, who heads Gestamp's U.S. operations. Gestamp has three Hamilton County facilities — two of which are in the industrial park.
Petroni said the company will make more products for not just VW but for BMW, Honda and other automakers.
Gestamp announced in 2015 that it would invest another $180 million as it added to its existing Enterprise South plant, built another factory next to VW and renovated the former Farley's & Sathers candy facility nearby off Jersey Pike.
The public road from Highway 58 currently ends at the rear of the Gestamp plant next to VW and was built for $5.4 million. The final section will rebuild and enlarge the existing private Ferdinand Piech Road between Gestamp and Volkswagen Drive.
Internet retailer Amazon, already with about 2,800 people at its distribution facility in Chattanooga, announced in August that it's hiring about 1,000 more people for its Enterprise South location and a similar Bradley County site.
"It's based on customer demand," said Amazon spokeswoman Ali Hutchins.
Dubbed the Yellow Brick Road by planners, the road though the industrial park was promoted by officials as opening up what was more than a decade ago a mostly vacant former U.S. Army ammunition plant. The name is a take-off from "The Wizard of Oz" movie in which a golden-bricked trail leads to the magical Emerald City.
Earlier estimates have shown that nearly 74,000 motorists a day travel I-75 past the Volkswagen plant exit. For Highway 58, more than 23,000 vehicles go by where the new road will tie in, she said.
However, a study done for the state shows that in about a decade, the I-75 traffic will jump to more than 91,000 motorists, with about one-third of that trucks. On Highway 58, the number of vehicles will nearly triple to more than 61,500 by 2030, the study said.
The design of the latest piece of road will be a four lanes with turns at various locations, Flynn said. The road is financed though existing federal money, she said.
Tag Manufacturing, which makes attachments such as buckets for heavy construction equipment, is completing a $15 million expansion that could put its headcount at about 500 people.
Tag was one of the first companies to land in the industrial park in 2004, joining nanofiber business eSpin.
"TAG's expansion will help us keep up with production orders and new customers," said Gary Wilt, who owns the business with brother Terry.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.