Regional Intermodal Transportation Authority of Western Arkansas
The Regional Intermodal Transportation Authority of Western Arkansas (RITA) was formed in August 2009 by the cities of Fort Smith and Van Buren and the counties of Crawford and Sebastian per Act 690 of the 81st General Assembly, which authorizes the formation of regional transportation authorities in Arkansas. The purpose of RITA is to plan and provide for and to develop initiatives and projects important to this region’s economic development future and particularly improvements that support the movement of the region’s goods and freight.
RITA is governed by a twelve-member board with each of the four organizing local governments having equal representation. The board members’ terms of office are staggered and are for periods of two, four or six years each, with each renewable for six years.
City of Fort Smith
Ray Gosack, City Administrator
Ivy Owen, Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority
Vince Losole, Rheem Manufacturing Company
City of Van Buren
Bob Freeman, Mayor
Keith Hefner, Citizens Bank
Jay White, Pepper Source, Inc.
David Hudson, County Judge
Russell Owen, Hiram Walker
George Moschner, Baldor Electric Company
John Hall, County Judge
Bob Null, Arkansas Lamp
Gary Harshbarger, Bekaert Steel
RITA’s role is to be a voice for the region and a catalyst and supporter for transportation improvements benefitting the Sebastian-Crawford County region. Its primary focus is developing transportation improvements that support economic development and, particularly, the movement of goods and freight into and out of the region by road, rail, water and air. RITA also recognizes there are significant transportation improvements needed outside of the region that are appropriate for its support. These include completion of I-49 throughout western Arkansas and increasing the channel depth of the entire length of the Arkansas River Navigation Waterway from the Mississippi River to the Port of Muskogee to 12 feet.
The strategic plan is based on advancing and accomplishing the following core activities and objectives during the coming five-year period:
- Assess the economic development needs and assets of the region, particularly infrastructure that supports the movement of goods and freight.
- Develop infrastructure strategies that address these needs.
- Seek and encourage public and private investments that will fund and support these needs.
- Collaborate and cooperate with local, regional, state and federal entities to implement RITA’s development strategies.
- Secure local and other operational funding for the organization to enable it to pursue and implement its development objectives.
Current project priorities include, but are not limited to:
- Secure funding for improved and expanded rail service to the Chaffee Crossing Industrial Park.
- Secure additional funding for Interstate 49.
- Develop infrastructure to support a 50-acre economic development site at Chaffee Crossing and a 30-acre site near Van Buren’s port operations.
- Develop plans and funding for new and expanded river port infrastructures.
The Arkansas State Legislative Session of 2009 authorized $325,000 to fund the start-up of RITA’s operation. These funds are being utilized to engage a full-time project director and pay for office space and support provided by WAPDD. These seed-monies are projected to be fully expended by August 2011. RITA is pursuing additional operational funds from the 2011 Legislative Session. The RITA Board has also requested $25,000 of operational funding from each of the four organizing local governments so that it can continue to meet its operational expenses for the remainder of 2011. Sustainable funding from enterprise operations in which RITA might engage itself will also be considered, developed and pursued.
RITA recognizes that successful economic development in general and pursuit of its development goals in particular require cooperation and collaboration by many different entities. RITA’s development partners include the Van Buren and Fort Smith chambers of commerce, the Fort Chaffee Public Trust, Western Arkansas Planning & Development District, the Northwest Arkansas Council, the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, and local government and private sector leadership.
For information about RITA and RITA activties, contact Mathew Pitsch, RITA , (479)785-2651 or email.