A proposed Regional Intermodal Transportation Authority (RITA) agreement will be posted early Thursday at www.faulknercounty.org for public review and input after passing committee Tuesday.
The agreement has been in the hands of the Faulkner County Quorum Court Roads Committee and has undergone several revisions, including a recent one that would exclude the original statute’s power of eminent domain from the proposed Central Arkansas Intermodal Authority.
The committee also added language to restrict the formation of special improvement districts.
The agreement to form an intermodal authority is between Conway, Faulkner and Perry counties, and each would have representatives making up the authority’s nine memberships.
Faulkner’s members would be five, and Perry and Conway counties would have two each in the agreement.
According to the agreement, the primary purpose of the RITA will be to "acquire, equip, construct, maintain, or operate an intermodal facility or facilities…" and to maintain or operate industrial, warehouse or distribution related facilities in the intermodal "for the purpose of securing and developing industry or commerce."
RITAs afford regional grant opportunities, and the alliance would have the goal to pool resources and lobbying power to build transportation infrastructure.
A RITA transportation infrastructure project could include a river port, which has been said to be ideally located near the Cadron Creek opening to the Arkansas River north of Conway, or a project may be Interstate or railway expansion, an airport, or even a combination of the infrastructure as it lends itself to shipping and receiving.
RITA proponents who were present at Tuesday’s committee meeting were Senator Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, and Dr. Don Bradley, University of Central Arkansas professor of marketing and executive director of the Small Business Advancement National Center.
Rapert said he and other interested individuals in an ad hoc committee have been looking at the feasibility of intermodal transportation and a port.
He said Wednesday momentum for the RITA has returned after a lull while county offices changed hands.
Bradley has investigated the posibility of a river port, but said it was too early to focus on one aspect of the RITA.
Rapert said with the Arkansas River being the third longest navigable river in America, there’s a lot of opportunity for a port.
"The partnership is what is important to me here," he said, adding that no taxes are mandated for RITA, but they are an option.
"(RITA) is simply an economic development tool that can be utilized by a region rather than a local community and can be seen as a regional authority rather than the Conway, the Bigelow or the Morrilton authority. It gets the attention for more support with regional cooperation," Rapert said.
April Lane, Faulkner County Citizens Advisory Group board member, urged committee members to consider if the proposed RITA or resulting developments are what is best for the families who live near prospective development sites.
Bradley, who is chairman of the ad hoc committee Rapert referenced, said there is no official proposal for a facility yet that includes prospective locations, but there has been talk of optimal locations that have been identified along the Arkansas River that are close in proximity to major road and railways and the airport.
To view the proposed agreement or to provide comment to court members who will vote on the RITA, visit www.faulknercounty.org and click on the "Public Review" tab on the left menu. The proposed agreement is under "Pending Ordinances."
County Civil Attorney David Hogue said he will take the public’s comments to their respective Justices of the Peace if they are sent by email to his address provided on the page. He said to include the resident’s name and address so he could forward the comment to the appropriate justice.
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