The Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority will meet at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday in the Farmer’s Bank Community Room in Greenwood.
On the agenda is a conference call with John Vickerman of Vickerman and Associates in Williamsburg, Va., to provide answers to any questions on ongoing data gathering for a packet being prepared for the Arkansas River inland port and intermodal project. An update on WAIA staff project tasks will also be given.
Vickerman and Associates was hired earlier this year by the Intermodal Authority to prepare requests for expression of interest and solicitation for an intermodal port near Van Buren. The contract, which was funded with about $200,000, includes data collection, trade date procurement, a targeted market assessment and a conceptual terminal development plan. Funding for the contract with Vickerman was provided by the cities of Fort Smith and Van Buren, Crawford County, Sebastian County and the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority.
State Rep. Mat Pitsch, R-Fort Smith, also serves as executive director of the Westerman Arkansas Intermodal Authority. Pitsch said Friday that Vickerman is “ahead of schedule” on the timeline for data gathering, which was set as the second and third month of the nine-month contract.
Months four to nine in the contract are set for soliciting partnerships to build the intermodal port. Physical meetings would take place in months seven to nine of the contract, which calls for three qualified bids to be presented. An in-person status update will be given by Vickerman to the board in the third week of August, Pitsch added.
At its last meeting May 10, the Intermodal Authority addressed a variety of transportation issues, including potential for a toll road on the Interstate 49 extension to Arkansas 22, with a new bridge over the Arkansas River. By federal law, no existing interstates can be tolled. But new roads and bridges can, according to Danny Straessle, spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Transportation. ARDOT became the new name for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department on July 1.
Straessle said there is a federal pilot project that allows five states to toll existing interstates. Arkansas has positioned itself to apply for a spot if another state drops out of the pilot program, and ARDOT recently hired a consultant to conduct a feasibility study for tolling a new section of I-49, Straessle added.
Pitsch said $10 million has been included in an Arkansas State Transportation Improvement Plan to create a solicitation packet for the I-49 segment to Arkansas 22, which is similar to the packet being created by Vickerman and Associates for the intermodal port.