Intermodal port between Van Buren and Fort Smith moves forward; groundbreaking expected in two years

Ty Thompson
Press Argus-Courier
The new intermodal port on the Arkansas River will be located off of Highway 59 in Crawford County.

The new intermodal port between Van Buren and Fort Smith continues to move forward with hopes of breaking ground in two years. Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority met on July 7 to learn about new updates to the project. 

Roy Andrews, project manager at Pickering Firm Inc., laid out the vision and goals for the project. Their vision is to "champion economic growth" and "actively market and support efforts to build economic assets."

Andrews explained how the highway, river, and rail systems in the area, as well as where Arkansas is located in the country, make for an optimum spot for this intermodal port. 

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The port will be located on the Van Buren side of the Arkansas River next to Highway 59 and will service companies in Van Buren, Fort Smith, and the surrounding areas.

With the Arkansas River leading to the  Mississippi River, and subsequently into the Gulf of Mexico international transportation becomes an easy feat, he said. The rails and highways help with national transportation, and all three easily coincide at the future port.

The port will utilize vessels produced by American Patriots Holdings from Florida that will cut down travel time by 60%, around the same speed by rail and truck. The vessel is designed to transport cargo through the port three times per week.

This will add up to around 421,000, 20-foot equivalent units, the containers, annually. 

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With two other ports in the area, Andrews said that there will be no competition between them. 

"It complements everybody," Andrews said. 

The cargo that will go through the new port will be different from what the typical freight carries. The new vessels are also able to transport refrigerated goods and the authority has been in talks with OK Foods, Tyson, and Simmons about transporting products they normally wouldn't be able to on the river. 

Future possibilities mentioned by Andrews would be an overpass added onto Highway 59 near where the port would be located to ease the flow of traffic and ease the possible bottleneck caused by trucks leaving the port.