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From Highway 58, Clark Road is the new entrance into the rear of the Volkswagen Plant at Enterprise South industrial park.
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Tennessee is moving ahead with a four-lane connector to VW's extension road.

James Adams of eSpin Technologies said there are times at the Enterprise South company when workers can hardly exit its parking lot due to heavy traffic.

"We have to wait five minutes to get out," he said, citing congestion due to shift changes from big employers Amazon and Volkswagen, which combined are slated to add thousands of more workers at the industrial park.

To help traffic flow, roughly $20.5 million in new road and intersection improvements are aimed at Enterprise South, officials say. The biggest enhancement is a plan to finish a direct link between Highway 58 and Interstate 75 through the industrial park near the VW plant.

"Traffic will navigate better," said City Engineer Bill Payne.

At the same time, however, road planners appear to be dialing back another proposal to re-route and four-lane Hickory Valley Road through Enterprise South. Planners said work on that road could advance quicker if the industrial park attracts even more business.

Among the other road projects at Enterprise South:

* Completing the last piece of the so-called Yellow Brick Road, dubbed that decades ago because of the economic potential such an artery was seen as helping to unlock at the industrial park.

Making that Highway 58/I-75 link -- the four-laning of the current private, two-lane Ferdinand Piech Way from the VW plant to Volkswagen Drive -- is expected to move up on the list of city and Hamilton County road planners.

Costing about $11.8 million in federal and local funds, it would connect with a just-completed but unopened road built from Highway 58 to the rear of the VW factory.

The new section would tie into Volkswagen Drive, which in turn links directly to I-75 and Bonny Oaks Drive.

Payne said this work would complete the original Yellow Brick Road route that was planned for the industrial park early on. He said the idea was bumped when VW arrived in 2008 and the company wasn't sure it wanted a new public road through its property.

But, Payne said, VW and the state have agreed to the new route. Local transportation officials are now finalizing the change in their 2016-17 transportation plan.

Betsy Evans of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Transportation Planning Organization said work could start sometime after Oct. 1. Preliminary engineering already is underway, she said.

Jennifer Flynn, a Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said the first section of the road from Highway 58 to the rear of VW was recently completed and handed over to the city. Done by the state, the road ties into Highway 58 at Clark Road and cost about $6.5 million.

Payne said it's not known when that road may open because it doesn't now service VW or any other entity. He said there are close-by pads for future VW supplier park buildings, and a nearby school on the route could make use of the road in the near future.

Payne said the improvements planned for Hickory Valley Road would take away a couple of dog-legs near Plastic Omnium's new plant and widen the road to four lanes. But, he said, that work wasn't seen to be as critical as Ferdinand Piech Way.

* Improving the Bonny Oaks Drive and Volkswagen Drive intersection. Also included is enhancing a roundabout at Discovery and Volkswagen drives.

Work on this project started a couple of weeks ago with completion set for August, Flynn said. It will cost about $2.2 million and turn lanes will be added, she said.

"These intersection improvements should help to improve the intersection congestion in this area," Flynn said.

More employees at the industrial park are expected. VW is expanding its plant with plans to hire 2,000 more workers joining its 2,400 existing employees. Amazon announced last month it's adding at least 400 more workers, boosting its head count to between 2,500 and 3,000.

Also, VW supplier and bumper maker Plastic Omnium expects to have about 300 workers at its new plant within about three years.

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

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