A $7.25 million, 850-foot pedestrian bridge and guardhouse for the Volkswagen plant won approval from a city panel Tuesday.
The steel-and-glass structure, more than one-quarter the length of the Walnut Street Bridge that spans the Tennessee River, will serve as the main entrance to the auto plant.
The pedestrian bridge, paid from city, Hamilton County and state funds as part of the automaker's incentive package, will cross over a stream and one of VW's vehicle test tracks and negotiate a steep change in elevation at the site, officials said.
"It will be an extraordinary bridge," said Steve Leach, the city's public works administrator to the Industrial Development Board, which approved the bridge. "It will be a real statement. It's huge."
City Engineer Bill Payne told the panel that Gray Construction of Lexington, Ky., was the low bidder for the project on which work is to start soon. He said the pedestrian bridge is scheduled to open next spring.
Payne said the bridge will incorporate ideas generated from Auburn University students who in January won a design contest among universities.
Jan Spies, who oversees all VW factory planning worldwide, said then the winning design and the other 37 proposals would provide strong ideas to build upon the factory entrance.
He termed the competition "very successful" in generating fresh, creative ideas.
Frank Fischer, chief executive of VW's Chattanooga operations, said the bridge not only connects employees and visitors to the plant physically but is a link between VW and the city.
Guenther Scherelis, general manager of communication for VW in Chattanooga, said the bridge is "a crucial and a symbolic link between the Volkswagen plant and the public."
"It is the first and the last impression for employees and visitors of the plant, he said.
Payne said the span is a truss-style bridge with a glass curtain wall system.
The guardhouse and bridge will fill an existing opening next to the $40 million training center that VW recently started up. The bridge also is located close to the plant's employee and visitor parking lots.
"It's an interesting structure to tie the site together," Leach said.
VW is hiring more than 2,000 employees at the $1 billion plant that's to start operation in early 2011.
State and local governments committed incentives worth an estimated $577.4 million for the VW plant that's expected to produce 150,000 vehicles a year.
Online: Hear Bill Payne talk about the bridge and guardhouse project. Read previous stories.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or (423) 757-6318.