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November forum planned for light rail study.

Financial support provided by local individuals and groups has enabled Greenway LLC of Fayetteville to organize a public forum that will be dedicated to "the exploration of the potential for a light rail transit system" for northwest Arkansas.

Greenway is a nonprofit group formed earlier this year to support a proposed 41-mile passenger train route from Greenland to Bentonville.

The system would include a loop by the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Highfill and a centrally located main line in Lowell. Very preliminary estimates by Fayetteville technology due diligence firm Beta Rubicon said building such a railway system would cost between $550 million and $1.24 billion. By comparison, Arkansas plans to spend $232 million on highway construction between 2005 and 2007.

The forum is tentatively planned for mid-November, although both the exact date and venue will be set depending on the availability of key speakers, panel members and representatives of the various interested parties, according to the news release. Its objectives include the sharing and exchange of potential benefits and negatives in what Greenway describes as a "well-informed, comprehensive and balanced fashion."

John Bradberry, a member of Greenway and a private asset manager in Fayetteville, recently said pulling off a large public forum would cost about $40,000. No specifics on the actual cost of the November rally are yet available. Those costs include renting a venue, flying in experts who've done it before, advertising and other expenses.

Bradberry said the forum could demonstrate the community's interest and enthusiasm for the project in an effort to create enough political support, particularly among Arkansas' congressional delegation, to procure a federal grant to finance 80 percent of a largescale study.

The total tab for a study is expected to he about $350,000, and the Ozark Regional Transit Authority is already in for half of the 20 percent ($35,000).

Beta Rubicon already conducted a two-month, $15,000 "pre-feasibility" study for Greenway LLC, which in addition to Bradberry includes Ed Love and Rolland McKinney.

Most of the route would use either existing track or right of way owned by Arkansas-Missouri Railroad, which is interested in the proposal. The proposed route would have 10 stops and use between 10 and 22 railway cars.
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Title Annotation:NW Journal: A Look at News From Northwest Arkansas
Author:Wood, Jeffrey
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Aug 29, 2005
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