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Completing the Yellow Brick Road

Completing the Yellow Brick Road

› Early 2016 — VW works with engineering firm on modifying its plant truck logistics area near planned road route

› Summer 2016 — Right of way acquisition

› 2017 — Construction contract let

› 2019 — Road to open

Source: Tennessee Department of Transportation

Volkswagen is readying for the final link of the so-called Yellow Brick Road that will offer motorists, and some VW suppliers, the most direct connection between Interstate 75 and Highway 58.

The automaker's Chattanooga plant is changing up a truck logistics site to prep for the new five-lane public road that will run behind VW's supplier park, according to officials.

"It will make that final connection," said City Engineer Bill Payne.

The proposed artery was dubbed the Yellow Brick Road by planners years ago as a take-off from the movie "The Wizard of Oz" in which the golden trail led to the magical Emerald City.

The planned road through Enterprise South industrial park was promoted by officials as a way of opening up what was then a mostly vacant 6,000-acre former U.S. Army site to major employers providing good-paying jobs.

Now, upwards of 6,000 people go to work daily in the industrial park at more than a half dozen employers such as VW, Amazon, Gestamp and Plastic Omnium. New development by companies in the industrial park also is now underway and planned.

Jennifer Flynn, a Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said a survey of the road's final leg is done and environmental studies and road design are well underway.

Right-of-way acquisition will start this summer with a construction contract let in 2017, she said.

The estimated cost of the last section is $6.5 million and is funded through an existing federal earmark, Flynn said.

"A connection between I-75 and State Road 58 would not only serve VW and its suppliers, but also area residents and businesses in the Harrison area," she said.

Flynn said the new road will be another option for people living in the Collegedale and Apison areas to get to Highway 58.

More than a year ago, TDOT finished the part of the Yellow Brick Road leading from Highway 58 at Clark Road and dead-ending at the rear of VW's supplier park. But, that two-lane, $5.4 million section remained closed as the automaker, the city and Hamilton County mulled future expansions to the assembly plant and its supplier park.

VW eventually unveiled a $600 million factory expansion, and supplier Gestamp unveiled plans to build a new plant on supplier park property. It will provide parts for a sport utility vehicle, on which production is to start in late 2016.

Planners initially intended to expand Hickory Valley Road and keep the artery near VW private. But, the focus has instead shifted to completing the new link between Highway 58 and I-75 and making it a public roadway.

The newest piece of asphalt will tie into the existing road where it dead-ends and tie up with Ferdinand Piech Way, a private road that runs from Volkswagen Drive to the supplier park. That existing two-lane road will be five-laned. Eventually, more lanes are to be added to the already-built section leading from Highway 58, officials said.

Payne said that on the newest piece of road, an additional 10-foot multi-model path will be constructed and provide people with access to the adjacent public park that was carved out of the 6,000-acre site.

"All of those pieces are being figured in," he said. "Things are on track and moving forward."

Earlier this week, the city's Industrial Development Board approved a change to a contract with engineering firm Barge Waggoner Sumner and Cannon Inc. to work with VW related to modifying the automaker's Truck Control Center. The city and county are splitting the $108,300 total project cost as part of financial incentives granted to VW.

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

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