'Yellow Brick Road' on fast track to connect VW park

'Yellow Brick Road' on fast track to connect VW park

February 11th, 2010 by The Commercial Appeal in Volkswagen

A road to the Volkswagen plant, dubbed the "Yellow Brick Road" by some Hamilton County leaders, is on the fast track to link to the county's newest and greenest park.

"It provides access to the nature center," said Steve Leach, administrator for the city of Chattanooga's Department of Public Works.

The 2,800-acre Enterprise South Nature Park sits on the east side of the industrial park and was set aside as a permanent buffer for the VW auto assembly plant.

The portion of the parkway being paved will lead from Interstate 75 to the VW plant's training center, officials said. The plan then is to build a roundabout and a road to the nature park.

The parkway has been in planning stages for more than a year, and the hope is that it could be finished as early as May, Mr. Leach said.

"In the May timeframe, we hope to have that completed, a roundabout done and the leg to the park completed," he said.

Eventually, the parkway section of the road will stretch from Interstate 75 to Highway 58, officials said.

The City Council approved a $3 million paving contract with Cookeville, Tenn.-based Highways Inc. on Tuesday night. The contract is for the first phase of the project.

The council will vote on the second phase -- a $2.4 million project -- next Tuesday.

Highway Inc. officials did not respond to phone calls on Wednesday.

VW spokesman Scott Wilson said the company approves of the parkway project.

"The new road allows easy access to the plant for all employees, suppliers and guests," he said. "It will also take a lot of future traffic from the roads that surround the Volkswagen plant."

Mr. Leach said 80 percent of the road project is being paid with federal money.

Jennifer Flynn, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, said the funds were coming from the Federal Highway Administration.

Ron Priddy, director of Hamilton County's parks and recreation department, said his office is expecting a summer opening for the nature center. They have planned on the parkway and access road to be done by August or September, he said, but it could be earlier.

BY THE NUMBERS

* $3 million: Amount awarded to contract for construction of first phase for Enterprise South road extension

* $2.4 million: Amount for second phase of the project

* 1: Road mileage from Interstate 75 to the nature park access road

Source: Chattanooga

"As soon as they get the road built," Mr. Priddy said.

Once the park opens it will have hiking and biking trails and picnic tables, he said. A scheduled hunt for bowhunters also could be held in some parts of the park, he said.

Full-time rangers and full-time maintenance staff will manage the park, Mr. Priddy said. Some of the park staff could be new hires and some could be transferred from other areas, he said.

"We're still in the planning stages," Mr. Priddy said.