PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota's Department of Transportation is accepting bids to purchase over 500 miles of state-owned railroads.

The state's Railroad Board voted to approve the plan on Wednesday, Aug. 21, and began accepting buyer inquiries on Monday. Offers are due Nov. 21, and the board will begin reviewing offers and negotiating in December.

The approximately 533 miles for sale were purchased by the state four decades ago when railroad giant Milwaukee Road — previously famed for operating the longest end-to-end network in the country, from Kentucky to Washington — went bankrupt.

According to board documents, some lines were purchased and restored to service by other railroads once Milwaukee Road went under, but the state purchased the remaining essential lines that were not sold privately.

Forty years later, the state is now looking for prospective buyers to take the rails off its hands with the ultimate goal of returning the rails to private sector ownership to boost traffic, tax revenues and job creation.

The longest stretch of rail for sale is the MRC Line, running 285 miles from Mitchell to Rapid City. A total of six lines are for sale, and prospective buyers can propose to purchase a single line, combination of lines or portion of a line to the board.

Any sale will need to be approved by the state railroad board, Republican Gov. Kristi Noem and the federal Surface Transportation Board.

The state is accepting purchase proposals for the following rails:

MRC Line: Mitchell to Rapid City

  • 285.1 miles
  • Portion currently leased to MRC Regional Railroad Authority through 2031
  • Operated by Dakota Southern Railway through 2031 via sublease

Napa-Platte Line: Napa Junction to Platte

  • 83.3 miles
  • Portion currently leased to and operated by Dakota Southern Railway Company through Nov. 2026

Britton Line: Aberdeen to Geneseo Junction Connection, ND, and Jarrett Junction to Britton

  • 76.6 miles
  • Currently leased to Marshall Regional Railroad Authority through 2025
  • Operated by Dakota Missouri Valley & Western Railroad, Inc. via sublease through 2025

Sioux Valley Line: Elk Point to Canton, and Veresford to Hawarden, IA

  • 68 miles
  • Currently leased to Sioux Valley Regional Railraod Authority through March 2034
  • Operated by D&I Railroad Co. via sublease through March 2024

Yale Line: Huron to Yale

  • 15.3 miles
  • Currently leased to East Central Regional Railroad Authority through Sept. 2020
  • Operated by Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad, Inc. (RCP&E) through Sept. 2020

Wolsey Interchange

  • 4.2 miles
  • Currently leased to and operated by RCP&E through June 2026