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Rail Group Seeks Support by State for Federal Grants

PIERRE -- Three railroads and two rail authorities asked a state government panel for support Wednesday as they seek federal aid to help rebuild routes in South Dakota.

PIERRE - Three railroads and two rail authorities asked a state government panel for support Wednesday as they seek federal aid to help rebuild routes in South Dakota.

South Dakota Department of Transportation staff will spend the next two weeks looking through the requests and then make recommendations to the state Railroad Board.

Board members will meet Aug. 15 to decide which projects to back, Chairman Harlan Quenzer, of Mitchell, said.

They're angling for some of the $318 million the Federal Railroad Administration has in its consolidated rail infrastructure and safety improvements program.

Applications are due Sept. 17 to the FRA. The competition is national. The routes in South Dakota seeking federal assistance are:

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The privately owned Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern line. It runs from Tracy, Minnesota, through Brookings, Huron and Pierre to Rapid City, with connectors to Crawford, Nebraska, and Colony, Wyoming.

The state-owned line leased to Sioux Valley Regional Railroad Authority in southeastern South Dakota. The Dakota and Iowa Railroad operates it; and

The state-owned line that runs from Mitchell west toward Rapid City. The MRC Regional Rail Authority leases it. The Dakota Southern Railway operates it.

D and I President Jack Parliament, a former member of the state board, said he wants to spend $8.1 million to replace 11.7 miles of old track and build a siding in several counties of South Dakota and Iowa.

Parliament asked for a $3 million federal loan and a $1 million state grant. The railroad would pay the other $4 million, he said.

The plan laid out by Jerry Vest, a senior vice president for the Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern line, calls for replacing 25.6 miles of track between Fort Pierre and Capa, upgrading 17 bridges to handle modern 286,000-pound freight cars and rebuilding the JC siding.

That would allow trains to run 25 miles per hour rather than 10 through that stretch and the line then could handle the modern standard for loads, he said.

Vest put the total price at $22.5 million, with $10 million from a federal grant, $10 million from the railroad and a $2.5 million grant from the state board. "This is a very straight-forward project," he said.

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He said RCPE also plans to spend $10 million to replace some 56,000 ties at various places.

Heath Haden, the Dakota Southern vice president for operations, didn't have a written proposal. He made his request from memory.

Haden asked for $1,250,000 to buy 50,000 to 60,000 tons of ballast to spread along the track in different spots, with most of it west of the Missouri River. He said Dakota Southern would pay more than $1 million to transport rocks and tamp them.

Two large grain elevators now run full-bore along the MRC line near Kimball and at Kennebec, while a third complex is going up at Presho.

Attorney Ken Cotton of Wagner and Kim Halverson, the MRC authority's chairman, sent a letter Wednesday to the state board calling for the line to now run to Murdo.

"We just want the line extended west, at least once more, maybe more," Halverson said.

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