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SD House OKs plan for $1.2M on rail bridge at Oacoma-Chamberlain

PIERRE — A passing train sounded its horn near the Capitol Wednesday afternoon, just as the state House of Representatives began discussing repair of the railroad bridge over the Missouri River between Chamberlain and Oacoma.

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“Perfect timing,” House Speaker Brian Gosch said.

House members voted 61-2 to approve Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s plan to put $1.2 million into the state’s railroad trust fund to be used for the project.

Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, said the rebuilt bridge would be able to accommodate modern-sized trains and modern-weight loads.

“This is an investment in infrastructure,” Mickelson said.

Rep. James Schaefer, R-Kennebec, said he was “very excited” when the governor made the announcement last month.

“We do call it the Bridge to Opportunity,” Schaefer said.

He said $30 million to $40 million will be spent on new loading facilities and agronomy services as rehabilitation of the old Mitchell-Rapid City line continues west of Chamberlain.

“This is an important beginning,” Rep. Julie Bartling, D-Gregory, said.

Her area, which doesn’t have routine rail service for agriculture producers and other shippers, will be helped by the railroad line’s improvement, she said.

The legislation, HB 1041, goes to the Senate next. The House nay votes came from Republicans Dan Kaiser, of Aberdeen, and Stace Nelson, of Fulton.