The Port of Little Rock will be undergoing a $6.1 million expansion enabling it to more easily move freight between river barges and trains. The project will be funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola says will greatly expand the port's economic impact.
"It's going to provide a new infrastructure for an additional dock with rail access, and it will give us some great opportunities for greater movement of commodities. It takes it off the interstates. It's a much more convenient, much more economical way to move a variety of freights and goods from one side of the country to the other," Stodola said.
The Little Rock Port Authority was one of 40 applicants out of a pool of 585 to be awarded a TIGER Grant. According to a federal website, the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants are awarded to projects that promise to achieve national objectives.
Local leaders joined with U.S. Rep. French Hill of Little Rock Monday to make the official announcement at the headquarters of the Little Rock Port Authority.
"When we expand this river traffic, we are by expanding by definition our ability to get freight off our highways. And for all of us that travel back and forth between Memphis and Little Rock, we're delighted that the estimate is that some 50,000 trucks might be replaced by the fine work done here at the port."
The port runs its own railroad with 17 miles of tracks connecting many of the industrial properties. The improvements will make better use of that infrastructure.
"This is going to enhance our ability to deal with rail, additional storage, larger unit trains bringing in new customers, and it's going to allow us to have a dock on the Slackwater Harbor that will handle rail-to-water," said Bryan Day, the port authoriy's director.
"So in the future, we’ll be able to easily handle containers, we’ll be easily able to handle liquids, we'll be easily able to handle grain and other agricultural products. Things that we can do now, but not very well."
The harbor is an inland channel from the Arkansas River, which is part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, linking the Mississippi River in eastern Arkansas to near Tusla, Oklahoma.