Dubbed the Yellow Brick Road when envisioned years ago, the end is finally in sight for the project with construction underway next to the Volkswagen assembly plant and its supplier park.
When the last 1.6-mile section is done by August 2022, the more than 9,000 people who now work at Enterprise South industrial park along with nearby residents will have a fast, direct link between Interstate-75 and Highway 58, officials say.
Called the Yellow Brick Road by planners more than a decade and a half ago, the artery though the industrial park that includes what is now Volkswagen Drive was seen as opening up 7,000 acres of then mostly vacant U.S. Army land.
The nickname was a take-off from "The Wizard of Oz" movie in which a gold-bricked trail leads to the magical Emerald City, and some officials believed the road could help bring in major companies and jobs and unlock the potential of the industrial park.
In 2008, Volkswagen announced a plan to build an assembly plant. Amazon revealed its intent to erect a huge distribution center shortly thereafter. A VW supplier park, coupled with more auto companies such as Gestamp and Plastic Omnium, and an array of smaller businesses, have driven growth at Enterprise South.
On Monday, a Chattanooga panel agreed to earmark another $26,000 for an engineering company to rework the entrances to the VW plant to the connector road. That money was part of grant funds from the city and Hamilton County for VW, said Jason Payne, project coordinator for the city.
But the funding of the last parts of the road itself between I-75 and Highway 58, a total of three miles and valued at nearly $20 million, are paid from state and federal funds, said Jennifer Flynn, a Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman.
The initial 1.4-mile section from Highway 58 already built to the rear of the Gestamp plant was $5.5 million in cost and all state money, she said.
The final 1.6-mile piece now under construction from Gestamp to a traffic circle at Volkswagen Drive is projected to cost $13.4 million, she said. The federal portion is 80% with the state paying the remainder, Flynn said.
She said the reason the project has taken so long to get to this point partly has to do with obtaining proper permitting relating to stream and wetland impacts.
"Addressing all the utilities in the area relative to the project also required some time," she said. "As the project was developed, TDOT coordinated with officials from the city of Chattanooga, Volkswagen, and Gestamp regarding this project. "
Payne told the city's Industrial Development Board that VW initially didn't want a public road running through its land. Later, he said, the German automaker had a change of heart.
"In 2012, it changed its mind and asked the state to put a public road through its property," he said. "That process has taken years to get under construction."
Earlier estimates have shown that nearly 74,000 motorists a day travel I-75 past the Volkswagen plant exit. For Highway 58, more than 23,000 vehicles go by where the new road ties in, according to TDOT.
However, a study done for the state shows that in less than a decade, I-75 traffic will jump to more than 91,000 motorists daily, with about one-third of that truck traffic. On Highway 58, the number of vehicles will nearly triple to more than 61,500 by 2030, the study said.
The design of the latest piece of road will be a four lanes with turns at various locations, Flynn said. She added that the traffic circle at Volkswagen Drive will be converted to a traditional signalized intersection.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.