Wednesday, August 19, 2009

VW building Tennessee rail terminal

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Chattanooga-made Volkswagens just off the assembly line and ready for shipment countrywide will start their journey at a state-of-the-art terminal unrivaled in the industry, a consultant told the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The terminal will be served by CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern.

"It will be a unique facility once it's completed and set a new standard," said John MacGregor, president of TransDevelopment Group.

Called a finished vehicle facility, it will make optimal use of dual railroad lines leading to the VW plant site in addition to truck loading, he said. It's estimated that 80 percent of vehicles made at the plant will leave by rail rather than truck, a much higher percentage than is typical, MacGregor said.

City Engineer Bill Payne said some $11 million in state funds are earmarked for the project, but it could cost less.

Payne said TransDevelopment has done similar work around the world for auto companies or suppliers and railroads. Portland, Ore.-based TransDevelopment won a $38,750 contract from the city's Industrial Development Board to continue its consulting services for the VW project.

"There's quite a bit of planning involved in this," said Ted Mills, the board's chairman.

MacGregor said every new auto assembly plant has a shipping terminal so cars can be delivered to dealerships.

"The Chattanooga site has a unique advantage in that it can be served by two different railroads," MacGregor said. Both CSX and Norfolk Southern run lines to Enterprise South industrial park. He said VW and the Hamilton County Railroad Authority are making special plans to maximize each railroad line.

The Railroad Authority is overseeing $6 million in separate rail improvements in what's likely the biggest rail overhaul in and around the former Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant complex at least since the Vietnam War and potentially World War II. That rail infrastructure is publicly owned and will tie into the private carriers and VW's finished vehicle facility.

MacGregor said plans are for rail to service not just the VW plant but other development in the area.

"It's very much a long-term vision by the HCRA and VW," he said.

VW's $1 billion auto plant will start production in early 2011. It will produce 150,000 vehicles a year and employ more than 2,000 people, according to the German automaker.

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