Union Pacific has posted a Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority port project on its solutions tool website.
Mat Pitsch, executive director of the regional intermodal group, told the WAIA board Wednesday that the link was posted April 21 after discussions with Ports America and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
“The net effect is that Ports America, because of the MOU (memorandum of understanding), is building a client base and asked UP (Union Pacific) to include the potential area in its hot sites list,” Pitsch said.
The intermodal authority board also agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding with the board of commissioners of the Port of New Orleans pending permission with Ports America, which entered into an understanding with the Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority in March as part of a consultant’s efforts.
Ports America, Pitsch noted, operates half of the Port of New Orleans and he has requested his contact with Ports America resend an email that gives permission to enter into the agreement with Port of New Orleans’ board of commissioners.
Union Pacific submitted a letter of interest at the same time Ports America entered into a six-month agreement with the Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority, a group supported by Van Buren, Crawford County, Fort Smith and Sebastian County.
The agreement with Ports America and letter of interest from Union Pacific is to study the potential of building a new multimodal facility in Van Buren as a private-public partnership with the Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority.
John Vickerman of Vickerman & Associates, the Virginia-based consulting firm contracted by WAIA last year to search out expressions of interest, likened the development in March to being “given a pass to move seven steps forward.”
The Union Pacific website notes that Ports America, “the largest port operator and stevedore in North America, has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority (WAIA) and is engaged in a six-month exclusive diligence process to evaluate the commercial potential of the facility.”
“Ports America envisions a multi-commodity, multi-modal facility capable of handling and storing all types of cargo,” the UP site notes. “The site is strategically located adjacent to the Arkansas River, Union Pacific’s rail line, and highways I-40 and I-49. Ports America plans to leverage Union Pacific’s rail connectivity to the site and vast rail network to service both import and export cargo.”
Pitsch said he and representatives with Ports America have a weekly Monday morning conference call to discuss new information related to the potential intermodal port at Van Buren.