Editor’s note: The Arkansas Transportation Report is managed by Talk Business & Politics and sponsored by the Arkansas Trucking Association and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce. Other transportation industry related stories can be found on the Arkansas Transportation Report landing page.
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Despite a slow spring due to heightened river levels, barge activity on the Arkansas River through the first nine months of 2017 is trending toward its best year in four years.
Information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers showed 8.68 million tons were shipped January through September, up 1% from the 8.57 million tons during the same period of 2016.
Activity levels have been improving at a steady rate from earlier this year, when river traffic was impacted by heavy rainfall in March and April in areas of Oklahoma that feed into the Arkansas River watershed. The increased river levels slowed and eventually halted shipping on the river. In fact, May’s monthly total of 499,662 tons was the lowest monthly level since June 2015 (390,084 tons).
The September monthly total of 1.07 million tons was the highest since March (1.15 million tons), and was up 18.8% from the September 2016 totals of 903,538 tons.
HISTORIC RAIL, INTERMODAL TRAFFIC
Total U.S. railroad traffic for the first nine months of 2017 was 10.10 million carloads, up 3.8% from the January-September period last year, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR). Intermodal units totaled 10.43 million, up 3.5% from the year-ago period.
For September, U.S. railroads originated 1.04 million carloads, down 2.3% from the same month in 2016. Intermodal (containers and trailers) was up 3.8% from September 2016 to 1.08 million. Combined there were 2.12 million U.S. carload and intermodal originations in September, up 0.7%
“As our economy and population grow, consumer spending will grow too, and intermodal will continue to be the best way to get many goods to consumers,” AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray wrote in the report. “The last two weeks of September were the top two intermodal weeks in history for U.S. and Canadian railroads. We’re confident that the tremendous efforts railroads have been expending in recent years to improve service and enhance capacity will translate into continued intermodal gains.”
SEPTEMBER ENPLANEMENTS SLIP
Enplanements in September were down at the state’s three largest commercial airports, but year-to-date numbers are still ahead of last year’s pace, comfortably ahead at two of the facilities.
At Bill & Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, enplanements — or outbound passengers — totaled 79,246 in September, a decline of 3.5% from the same month in 2016. Enplanements for the January-September period were 757,170, up 1.88% from 743,199 in the same period in 2016.
At Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) in Highfill, enplanements in September were 58,949, down 4.29% from 61,593 enplanements in September 2016. For the first nine months of the year, there were 537,961 enplanements at XNA, up 3.82% from 518,173 enplanements in the year-ago period.
In Fort Smith, there were 7,426 enplanements in September, a drop of 4.8% from 7,801 enplanements in September 2016. For the first nine months of the year, there were 67,154 enplanements in Fort Smith, up 3.48% from 64,895 enplanements in the year-ago period.
Link here for a PDF of the November 2017 Arkansas Transportation Report.