VW bridge span 'symbolic' for Chattanooga work force

VW bridge span 'symbolic' for Chattanooga work force

February 16th, 2011 by Mike Pare in Businesstopstory

Using a large crane, workers lift a section of a pedestrian bridge Tuesday that will link the Volkswagen manufacturing facility with the nearby training center at the Enterprise South industrial park. Staff photo by John Rawlston

Volkswagen's big, signature pedestrian bridge that will link the plant's training center with the main production site is a key symbol for the automaker's Chattanooga work force, an official says.

"The door opens and you start a new life when you cross that bridge," said Steve Leach, the city's public works administrator.

On Tuesday, big pieces of structural steel were set into place for the bridge and guardhouse which will span 850 feet -- or a quarter the length of the Walnut Street Bridge, according to the city's Industrial Development Board.

The bridge, which will be the main plant entrance, is paid for from city, Hamilton County and state funds and part of the incentive package approved for the VW project.

Costing $7.25 million, the steel and glass structure will cross over a stream and one of VW's vehicle test tracks, and it will negotiate a steep change in elevation at the site.

Jill Wilson, vice president of communications and marketing for builder Gray Construction of Lexington, Ky., said bridge completion is slated for April.

FAST FACTS

* Truss-style bridge has a glass curtain wall system and siding.

* About 240 tons of steel are used in the bridge.

* Span will feature decorative arches and in-fill metal

* Bridge will serve as main entrance to the plant

Source: Gray Construction

She said the bridge incorporates ideas generated from Auburn University students who in January 2010 won a design contest among universities.

Leach said while most of the plant's buildings are comparable in appearance, the bridge will stand out.

"Part of the whole VW image will be in the bridge," he said.

Guenther Scherelis, general manager of communication for VW in Chattanooga, said the bridge is the first and last impressions for employees and visitors of the plant.

He termed it "a crucial and a symbolic link between the plant and the public."

Production at the $1 billion plant is slated to start next month on a new midsize Passat sedan.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.