VW Drive to help change city image

VW Drive to help change city image

July 10th, 2010 by Mike Pare in Volkswagen

Volkswagen Drive and the carmaker's new factory are expected to do for Chattanooga what officials say Kia Boulevard and its plant have done for West Point, Ga. -- help give the city a new identity.

Finishing touches are being made to Volkswagen Drive -- a four-lane parkway leading to the $1 billion VW assembly plant from Interstate 75 -- with the road opening soon, officials say.

"When you drive that road, it will blow you away," said Steve Leach, Chattanooga's public works administrator. "The whole (VW) project spreads out in front of you."

Staff photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press Superior Traffic Control employee Drake Terry hangs a traffic direction sign on the round-a-bout circle along Volkswagen Drive in Enterprise South on Friday. The new road, when open, will connect Bonny Oaks Drive to Interstate 75.

Richard Beeland, a spokesman for Mayor Ron Littlefield, said no date is set for Volkswagen Drive's opening, but officials are talking about a ceremony to mark the occasion.

"VW is investing $1 billion. It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing," he said. "It will change our region and community going forward. We want to let everyone know about it."

The plant is expected to employ more than 2,000 people.

In West Point, Kia Boulevard runs by one end of the South Korean automaker's new plant and into Interstate 85. It also connects with Kia Parkway, which travels in front of the $1.2 billion factory that's slated to employ 2,500 workers when fully ramped up.

The new parkway was featured in a Kia TV commercial when the assembly plant opened in the West Georgia city late last year, saying the factory represents "a glimpse of where we are headed tomorrow."

West Point, which sits in an area hard hit by textile plant closings, has new hope with the Kia plant and its suppliers, Mayor Drew Ferguson said in a interview this year.

He said that "the opportunities are bright because employment is real and large."

In Chattanooga, VW's new plant is expected to produce not only the factory jobs but another 9,000 from suppliers and related businesses in the region, according to the University of Tennessee's Center for Business and Economic Research.

In addition, the German assembly plant, VW's only one in the United States, has put Chattanooga on a worldwide stage. The plant is seen as a key to VW's strategy to overtake Toyota as No. 1 in global auto sales by 2018.

Mr. Leach said builders of the $8.77 million, 1-mile-long Volkswagen Drive, which officials have dubbed the Yellow Brick Road because of its economic development promise, are completing final steps.

While paving is essentially done, contractors are putting up guard rails and signs, laying down stripes and installing landscaping, he said.

"A lot of detail work goes into a major road like that," Mr. Leach said.

Jennifer Flynn of the state Department of Transportation said signs for the I-75 interchange will go up when city officials indicate the road is ready.

"Signs should be ready in the next couple of weeks," she said. "We could put them up anytime after that."

WELCOME CENTER

VW plans to build a multimillion-dollar welcome center near the Volkswagen Drive interchange at I-75.

Mr. Beeland said the city-owned parkway not only leads to VW's plant, but it better opens the entire 6,000-acre Enterprise South industrial park as well as providing green space as a buffer between the factory and I-75.

"It's another step forward in the completion of Enterprise South," he said.

Eventually, the parkway will continue from the VW plant through the rest of Enterprise South to state Highway 58. The road project's entire price tag is about $22.5 million, officials have said.

The German automaker plans to start making cars early next year.

Continue reading VW coverage.