Plans for Inland Port on Arkansas River Taking Shape

Intermodal Port
Todd Lappin/Flickr

Elected officials received a status update on an inland port and intermodal project on the Arkansas River at the Port of Van Buren.

The Western Arkansas Intermodal Authority presented a review regarding the request for expressions of interest and targeted market assessment for the project in the Windgate Art & Design building at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. Earlier this year, five entities, including Fort Smith, Van Buren, Crawford County, Sebastian County and the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority, agreed to contribute $40,000 each to allow WAIA to hire Vickerman & Associates, a Virginia-based firm.

Vickerman & Associates was hired to prepare requests for expression of interest and solicitation for the project. The contract includes data collection, trade date procurement, a targeted market assessment and a conceptual terminal development plan.

During the Aug. 23 event, John Vickerman of Vickerman & Associates provided WAIA and the five participating entities with a report on the project. Those present were also invited to ask Vickerman questions at the end of it.

“Basically, what we’re doing is we’re soliciting a developer or an investor that will help us develop, invest in an intermodal inland port project,” Vickerman said. “And we’re going to use a very large net to cast out and request expressions of interests. They may be developers, they may be investors, they could be terminal operators, there may be financial partners. As far as we’re concerned, we want to gather and attract those entities that are involved in intermodal terminal design, operation and finance.”

Vickerman said at this point, Vickerman & Associates has completed the first two of the five necessary tasks for this process. The first task was project start-up data collection and trade data procurement, which includes publicly available freight transport data and private data acquisition. The second step was the targeted market assessment. This was described in Vickerman’s presentation as macroeconomic and microeconomic level cargo demand assessment.

“What we have just completed is our market assessment of the future for this terminal,” Vickerman said. “And we have a very simple equation: forecasted demand minus the capacity of your transport system equals need, and we believe that everything you do should be market-driven. So it’s a hallmark of that process. ...”

The highlights of the targeted market assessment were also provided to the audience.

With this step done, Vickerman said the firm is heading toward the remaining three tasks. This includes the conceptual terminal development plan, the preparation of a request for expressions of interest and the release of the solicitations.

“There are very specific entities and organizations that are involved in this,” Vickerman said. “They’re not fully known to everybody in the process, but we will solicit nationally and internationally those players.”

Vickerman said the work will not be finished until December or January.

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