FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas Highway Commissioners unveiled plans today for a high-speed bullet train connecting Fayetteville and Fort Smith. Upon completion, the train will be capable of reaching speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour, completing the 54-mile trip in approximately 15 minutes.
“The economic impact of this project cannot be understated,” said Highway Commission Chair Michael Bluthe. “We are expecting tens, perhaps dozens, of people to use the train daily.”
At the northern end of the line, a glass-façade station will be constructed on the downtown Fayetteville Square. The southern terminus of the line, in Fort Smith, will be constructed on Garrison Avenue between La Huerta Mexican Restaurant and Midnight Rider Tattoo.
Although construction is scheduled to begin this summer, the project remains controversial.
“This is your typical government boondoggle,” said one Fayetteville resident. “Unless you were born there, or you play in a cover band, no one goes to Fort Smith.”
At a cost of $8.5 million per mile, the 54-mile train line will cost taxpayers an estimated $500 million, including an additional $42 million earmarked for the construction of the two stations at either end. Federal highway funds will provide twenty percent of the total cost, with the remainder coming from Arkansas taxpayers.
According to Fort Smith resident Richard Smelter, the bullet train will be worth the cost and the wait.
“You had me at ‘bullet’,” Smelter said.
In order to stay within the budgetary restrictions, the new track will be constructed on the southbound lanes of Interstate 540. All vehicle traffic will be re-routed onto the northbound side of 540.
Officials downplayed the potential impacts to vehicular traffic.
“Remember Highway 71?” said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It’s still right where we left it.”
According to officials, a round-trip ticket is expected to cost $324.