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Mismatched rail to be leveled

Railroad tracks run west of Mitchell. (Ross Dolan/Republic)

The South Dakota Department of Transportation is leveling out the Mitchell to Rapid City rail line.

When the MRC line was rebuilt last year between Mitchell and Chamberlain, it was done with used rail, which meant some of the rail was mismatched and uneven in height.

"It's hard on the rail to have that height mismatch," said Bruce Lindholm, railroad manager for the state Department of Transportation.

When the department ordered the rail for the project, it specified a maximum wear, or use, the rail could have. When the rail was delivered and placed, some pieces of rail that previously had little wear were placed next to rail that had been used much more. The rail was not at a continuously even height, because pieces of rail that have undergone less use are taller than rail that has seen a lot of traffic.

Rail that's taller will now be ground down, and short rail will be built up, until the uneven pieces of rail are within an eighth of an inch of each other in height.

"All of it was used rail; the question was how much was it used," Lindholm said. "It's the nature of buying used rail."

Lindholm said buying used rail and hiring a contractor to fix the height differences is cheaper than buying new rail for the line.

Bids were received until June 25 for rail end mismatch repairs on the line between Mitchell and Chamberlain. The MRC line is primarily used to transport agricultural commodities.

Musselman & Hall, of Kansas City, Mo., had the winning bid of $83,000. Work on the 61.4 miles of track between Mitchell and Chamberlain will begin soon, continue for six weeks and be finished by the end of September, Lindholm said.

A $28 million rehabilitation of the MRC line between Mitchell and Chamberlain, partially funded through a $16 million federal grant, was completed last year. The rail end mismatch repairs were budgeted into the original price.

Lindholm said the repairs will not disrupt or delay service on the line.