SDDOT State Rail Plan Online Meeting

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Definitions

Let’s start with defining some key terms and acronyms that will be used throughout this meeting.


State Rail Plan (SRP)

Plan setting forth policies involving freight and passenger rail transportation in the state, to be submitted for approval to the FRA.

Rail Investment Guide (RIG)

SDDOT policy and guidance document establishing rail investment goals, priorities and procedures.

South Dakota Railroad Trust Fund

State fund established in 1981 with funds available to make loans/grants or otherwise support rail projects in the state.

South Dakota Railroad Board

Seven-member board appointed by the Governor that approves matters related to operation, management, finance, and development of rail service over state properties, including the Railroad Trust Fund.

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

A part of the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT); a federal agency with regulatory authority over rail safety and ability to make rail grants through several programs:

  • Special Transportation Circumstances
  • Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements
  • Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
  • Class I: any rail carrier earning revenue greater than $900 million annually
  • Class II: any rail carrier earning revenue greater than $40.4 million annually but less than $900 million
  • Class III: any rail carrier earning less than $40.4 million annually

State Rail Plan Requirements


The SRP must, at a minimum, address specific components to be deemed compliant and will be subject to approval by the FRA. These requirements guide the development of the SRP. Click on the headers to read the full requirement.

An inventory of the existing rail transportation system and rail services and facilities within the State, and an analysis of rail transportation within the State.

A review of all rail lines within the State, including all freight, intercity passenger, and commuter rail lines.

A review of the major passenger and freight intermodal connections and facilities within the State, including seaports and marine highway routes.

A statement of the State's passenger rail service objectives, including minimum service levels, for rail transportation routes.

A general analysis of rail's transportation, economic, and environmental impacts in the State.

A long-range rail investment program for current and future freight and passenger infrastructure in the State.

A statement of public financing issues for rail projects and service in the State.

A review of publicly funded projects within the State to improve rail movements and safety, including all major projects funded under Section 130 of Title 23.

An identification of rail infrastructure issues within the State that reflects consultation with all relevant stakeholders.

A compilation of studies and reports on high-speed rail corridor development within the State, as applicable, and a review of passenger rail services operating in the State, as applicable.

State Rail Plan Outline

FRA Content Expectations & Guidance:


Chapter 1

The Role of Rail in Statewide Transportation

Chapter 2:

The State’s Existing Rail System

  • Description and Inventory
  • Trends and Forecasts
  • Rail Service Needs and Opportunities

Chapter 3

Proposed Passenger Rail Improvements and Investments

Chapter 4

Proposed Freight Rail Improvements and Investments

Chapter 5

The State’s Rail Service and Investment Program

Chapter 6

Coordination and Review

Rail in SD


History of Rail

The expansion of railroads in South Dakota was driven by agriculture in the Great Plains and the prospect of discovering precious metals in the Black Hills

Black Hills terrain, rocks and trees
A farmstead with a barn, silo and other buildings near a planted field off a dirt road.
The rail network in South Dakota reached its maximum extent in the early 20th century at 4,420 route miles. Railroad bankruptcies and competition from trucking in the 1970s and 1980s significantly impacted the South Dakota rail network. The State of South Dakota intervened to preserve rail service by acquiring railroad lines for future use.

Rail Today

South Dakota has nearly 2,000 route miles of railroad statewide.

South Dakota map depicting color-coded railroad lines operating across the state

Click on image to enlarge or download a pdf
Source: South Dakota Department of Transportation

South Dakota is served by:

2 Class I Railroads
1 Class II (Regional) Railroad
7 Class III (Short Line) Railroads
1 Tourist railroad: Black Hills Central 1880 Train

Rail Safety


Rail Crossing Incidents

South Dakota has 1,749 public at-grade railroad crossings. South Dakota experiences about 12 crossing accidents/incidents per year on average.

Stacked bar graph showing number of accidents or incidents at highway rail grade crossings in South Dakota, organized by severity

Click on image to enlarge
Data Source: Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Accident/Incident Records

Rail Crossing Improvements

South Dakota receives approximately $2.6 million in funding annually from the Federal Highway Administration via the Section 130 Railway-Highway Crossings program for the purpose of improving highway-rail grade crossing safety. Projects funded typically include the installation of gates and flashing lights, replacement of rough crossing surfaces, or improvement of roadway geometry.

Volunteers with Operation Lifesaver of the Dakotas gives educational presentations about how to be safe around railroad tracks to schools, driver education programs, and commercial driving programs.

Operation Lifesaver of the Dakotas official logo and yellow sign reading “See Tracks? Think Train”

Passenger Rail


Currently, South Dakota is one of two states in the Lower 48 not served by Amtrak’s national network. Amtrak’s ‘Connect US’ 2030 conceptual route map does not include expanded services to South Dakota. South Dakota also has no commuter rail services or rail transit systems.

There is strong grassroots interest in exploring the potential development of intercity passenger rail service within South Dakota.

Amtrak passenger rail car with a passenger viewing the rocky landscape

Click on image to enlarge

Importance of Rail


Rail-Supported Industries

Farm equipment icon

Agriculture

  • Fertilizers
  • Crops (Corn, Wheat, Soybeans, Sunflowers)
  • Bioprocessing (Ethanol, Dried Distillers Grains, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil)
  • Food Processing (Baked Goods, Meats, Frozen Foods)
Dump truck icon

Construction

  • Aggregates
  • Cement
  • Lumber
Assembly line icon

Manufacturing

  • Plastics
Recycling bin icon

Recycling

  • Scrap Metal

Benefits of Rail in South Dakota

Recycling bin icon

Economic expansion and diversification; allows South Dakota products to be efficiently exported

Recycling bin icon

Existing industries and job creation in South Dakota by providing a cost-effective logistics network for new businesses

Recycling bin icon

Safer and less congested interstates and highway networks, promoting more efficient highway travel and reducing highway maintenance

Recycling bin icon

Efficient movement over long distances, including exports

Recycling bin icon

Environmental considerations

Rail Needs & Opportunities


To support economic growth and development

  • Intermodal terminals for container import/export
  • Opportunities for customized rail-served sites

To ensure connectivity for critical industries

  • Class I railroad connectivity needs
  • Capacity needs related to grain traffic to Pacific Northwest

To maintain state railroad assets in a state of good repair

Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern

  • PRC Subdivision upgrades
  • Black Hills Subdivision upgrades

Dakota & Iowa Railroad

  • Sioux Valley Line rail replacement

Ellis & Eastern Railroad

  • Brandon, SD to Manley, MN track rehabilitation

Sisseton Milbank Railroad/h4>
  • Rail replacement and bridge upgrades

South Dakota’s state-owned rail system

  • Britton Line rail anchor and tie plate replacement

To reduce highway impacts

  • Preferential truck network needs
  • Truck-rail transload facilities

To improve railroad safety, security and resiliency

  • Crude oil and biofuels rail transportation safety
  • Highway-rail grade crossing safety

Rail Projects


Completed Projects

TRANSPORTATION INVESTMENTS GENERATING ECONOMIC RECOVERY (TIGER)

  • MRC RAILROAD RECONSTRUCTION BETWEEN CHAMBERLAIN AND PRESHO (TIGER VI) A 2015 USDOT TIGER grant award facilitated reconstruction of the MRC line from Chamberlain, South Dakota to Presho, South Dakota, covering a distance of 42.4 miles. This project involved replacing 65 to 85-lb per yard rail with new 132-lb per yard or heavier rail, replacing old ties with new ties, repairing 33 bridges and culverts, and surfacing and lining the track with new ballast. The project resulted in the re-initiation of railroad service to a new $40 million agronomy center owned by South Dakota Wheat Growers (now Agtegra), a farmer-owned agricultural cooperative. The total project cost was $37.7 million.
  • SOUTH DAKOTA FREIGHT CAPACITY EXPANSION PROJECT PHASE 1 (TIGER VII) A 2016 USDOT TIGER grant award enabled the Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad (RCPE) to relay 9 miles of 100-lb per yard jointed rail with new 115-lb per yard continuous welded rail, and to install 7,550 new ties near Huron, South Dakota. This project allowed train speeds to increase from 10 mph to 40 mph over this segment. The total project cost was $8 million.

CONSOLIDATED RAIL INFRASTRUCTURE AND SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS (CRISI)

  • SOUTH DAKOTA WEST RIVER RAIL IMPROVEMENT PROJECT (CRISI FY 2017) This 2017 FRA CRISI award facilitated the replacement of 2.5 miles of 100-year old, 100-lb per yard rail with new 115-lb per yard continuous welded rail on the Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad (RCPE) near Wall, South Dakota. Track conditions had previously required eastbound trains to slow from 25 miles per hour to 10 miles per hour as they entered an area of steep gradient. The project helped to alleviate a bottleneck on the RCPE network and improved operating efficiency by allowing longer trains to travel on this section of track. The total project cost was approximately $2 million.

SOUTH DAKOTA RAILROAD TRUST FUND

  • SIOUX VALLEY BRIDGE REHABILITATION In 2016, the Sioux Valley Regional Railroad Authority received a Railroad Trust Fund loan, in the amount of $2.5 million, to rehabilitate 11 bridges from steel truss decking to concrete ballast decking at multiple locations between Elk Point and Canton, South Dakota.
  • JARRET JUNCTION SOUTH LEG WYE CONSTRUCTION In 2016, the south leg of the wye at Jarret Junction near Britton was constructed to allow trains from the south (interchanged to and from the BNSF Railway at Aberdeen) to service the Wheaton-Dumont elevator in Britton more efficiently. This project was funded by Governor’s Office of Economic Development Future Funds in the amount of $600,000.
  • BRITTON RAIL LINE RAIL REPLACEMENT PROJECT In 2016, the South Dakota State Railroad Board issued a loan from the Railroad Trust Fund for $4.5 million to the Dakota, Missouri Valley and Western Railroad (DMVW). DMVW contributed $2.9 million of its own funds for a total project cost of $7.3 million. This project consisted of replacing 24.5 miles of 77-lb to 85-lb per yard rail with new 115-lb per yard rail. This project enabled the operator to negotiate new interchange agreements with two Class I rail companies.
  • ONIDA ETHANOL FACILITY In 2017, the South Dakota State Railroad Board issued a loan from the Railroad Trust Fund for $3.5 million to Sully County Regional Railroad Authority for the construction of 13,455 track-feet of new industry tracks at a new $136.5 million ethanol facility located south of Onida, South Dakota.
  • RICHLAND-SARGENT BOX CULVERT REPLACEMENT In 2018, the South Dakota State Railroad Board issued a loan from the Railroad Trust Fund for $250,000 to fund the replacement of a box culvert on the state-owned Britton rail line in Sargent County, North Dakota. The state replaced the existing double 5’x7’ structure with a single 16’x7’ structure to fit the upstream and downstream capacity for a projected 40-year flood event. An additional $171,257 in other state funds were also contributed.
  • 2019 FLOOD – SIOUX VALLEY RAIL LINE In 2019, SDDOT worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to restore track and structures on the Sioux Valley Line following major flooding. The total project cost was $7.7 million, including $6.3 million from FEMA, $691,150 from other state funds, and $691,150 from the Dakota & Iowa Railroad.
  • 2019 FLOOD – MRC RAIL LINE In 2019, SDDOT worked with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to restore track and structures on the MRC Line following major flooding. The total project cost was $1.3 million, including $1.1 million in FEMA funding and a $216,572 loan from the Railroad Trust Fund.

Current Projects

FRA CONSOLIDATED RAIL INFRASTRUCTURE AND SAFETY IMROVEMENTS (CRISI)

  • MINNESOTA-SOUTH DAKOTA RAIL IMPROVEMENT PROJECT (CRISI FY 2019) This project is facilitating the restoration of roughly 38 miles of track between Brandon, South Dakota (near Sioux Falls) and Worthington, Minnesota. The project is upgrading 11 bridges, one siding, approximately six miles of rail, and 45 highway-rail grade crossings in order to facilitate the restoration of rail service on an intact portion of the Ellis & Eastern Railroad that was previously disused for many years.

FRA SPECIAL TRANSPORTATION CIRCUMSTANCES (STC)

  • BELLE FOURCHE INDUSTRIAL AND RAIL PARK (STC FY 2019) Belle Fourche Development Corporation was awarded a grant to construct 3,975 track-feet of additional sidings and install four turnouts at its Industrial and Rail Park near Belle Fourche, South Dakota. The project funding package consists of $1.9 million in FRA STC funds and $0.5 million of Belle Fourche Development Corporation funds for a total project cost of $2.4 million.
  • DAKOTA AND IOWA RAILROAD MAIN LINE RAIL REPLACEMENT AND CROSSING IMPROVEMENT PROJECT (STC FY 2019) The Dakota & Iowa Railroad (D&I) was awarded a grant to replace seven miles of 100-lb per yard jointed rail with new 115-lb per yard continuous welded rail and upgrade four turnouts between Dell Rapids and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The project funding package consists of $4 million in FRA STC funds and a $1 million non-federal matching contribution from D&I and the City of Dell Rapids for a total project cost of approximately $5 million.
  • ELLIS AND EASTERN SIOUX FALLS AREA BRIDGES (STC FY 2019) Ellis & Eastern Railroad (EE) was awarded a grant to reconstruct three bridges near Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The project funding package consists of $3.9 million in FRA STC funds and a $1 million matching contribution from EE for a total project cost of $4.9 million.
  • SISSETON MILBANK RAILROAD LAKE FARLEY BRIDGE REPLACEMENT (STC FY 2019) Sisseton Milbank Railroad (SMRR) was awarded a grant to reconstruct an existing bridge near Milbank, South Dakota. Funding package consists of $1.5 million in FRA STC funds and a $0.4 million matching contribution from SMRR for a total project cost of $1.9 million.
  • DAKOTA, MISSOURI VALLEY & WESTERN RAIL IMPROVEMENT (STC FY 2020) This rural freight rail capital project consists of several track improvements between Britton and Aberdeen, South Dakota. The project includes replacing approximately 20,450 ties, removing, and replacing old anchors, adding ballast, and making repairs to two railroad bridges. These improvements will make the state-owned track safer and more efficient for ongoing rail operations.
  • MIDLAND RAIL IMPROVEMENT (STC FY 2020) Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad will perform track rehabilitation near Midland, South Dakota. The project will upgrade four miles of track to permit heavier carloads and increase train speeds to 25 mph. The total project cost is approximately $2.8 million ($2.2 million in FRA STC funds and $0.6 million of non-federal matching funds).
  • MITCHELL-RAPID CITY MEET AND PASS SIDING (STC FY 2020) Ringneck & Western Railroad will construct a new 10,000 foot meet & pass siding near Kimball, South Dakota. The new siding will improve operational flexibility on the line. The total project cost is approximately $2.5 million ($1.5 million in FRA STC funds, $0.5 million in State grant funds, and $0.3 million in other non-federal matching funds).

OTHER RAIL-RELATED PROJECTS

  • SIOUX FALLS DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION – FOUNDATION PARK Established in 2015, Foundation Park is a new, multi-user industrial park located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota near the intersection of Interstate 29 and Interstate 90. The industrial park contains over 800 acres of available real estate zoned for heavy industrial use, with 117 of those acres having direct rail access provided by BNSF Railway.

    This site has been designated as a BNSF Certified Site. BNSF certification ensures a site is ready for rapid acquisition and development through a comprehensive evaluation of existing and projected infrastructure, environmental and geotechnical standards, utility evaluation and site availability.

    Two rail-served tenants have already located in the park: Win Chill Cold Storage and Nordica Warehouses. A third rail-served tenant, CJ Foods/Schwans, is constructing a food processing facility on another parcel.
  • CITY OF SIOUX FALLS DOWNTOWN RAIL YARD REDEVELOPMENT In 2015, the City of Sioux Falls utilized federal funds to acquire 10.25 acres of land from the BNSF Railway. This real estate had become available as a result of the consolidation of multiple parallel tracks into a single corridor. The combined rail corridor is now shared by BNSF Railway, Ellis & Eastern Railroad, and the Dakota & Iowa Railroad.

    The Sioux Falls rail yard redevelopment project represents a tremendous opportunity to revitalize a strategically located site in the heart of the city where the railroad facilities had previously been a barrier between downtown Sioux Falls and surrounding neighborhoods. Together with the revitalization of the riverfront area with recreation and commercial development, the continued investment in the core of downtown Sioux Falls, and the emergence of the area surrounding the site as a shopping and dining destination, the Sioux Falls rail yard redevelopment area site represents a historic opportunity to create a transformational project that helps create a fully integrated and unified eastern downtown district.

SELECTED FOR FUNDING

USDOT REBUILDING AMERICAN INFRASTRUCTURE WITH SUSTAINABILITY AND EQUITY (RAISE)

  • SOUTH DAKOTA FREIGHT CAPACITY EXPANSION PROJECT (RAISE FY 2021) South Dakota was awarded a $22.0 million USDOT RAISE grant in 2021 to support rail and bridge improvements on the Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad (RCPE) PRC Subdivision between Fort Pierre and Rapid City. These improvements together will increase the utility of this rail line to rail shippers in the region by allowing service between Fort Pierre and Rapid City to increase from 263,000-lb maximum gross carload weight and 10 mph train speeds to 286,000-lb maximum gross carload weight (the current industry standard) and 25 mph train speeds.

    The total project cost will be $84.0 million. South Dakota Senate Bill 93 (SB 93) was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Noem to provide $20.0 million in state funds for use as matching funds for the grant together with $42.0 million in matching funds from RCPE.

FRA SPECIAL TRANSPORTATION CIRCUMSTANCES (STC)

  • WEST RIVER FREIGHT RAIL STORM RESILIENCY PROJECT (STC FY 2021) This project will upgrade structures at eight specific locations along the Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad (RCPE) PRC Subdivision between Fort Pierre and Rapid City. These locations include seven culverts and one bridge that have been identified to be at significant risk of compromise in future heavy rainstorm events. The existing culverts will be replaced with new, larger culverts to allow for unrestricted passage of water and debris. The bridge structure is proposed to be replaced with a new embankment and new culvert to better control future flood waters on the Bad River. This will improve safety and operational resiliency to help maintain uninterrupted freight service between Pierre and Rapid City.

    The total project cost will be $1.0 million. RCPE will provide a $0.2 million non-federal match and requests $0.8 million in FRA STC grant funds.
  • MAIN LINE RAIL REPLACEMENT PROJECT (STC FY 2021) This proposed project will replace 5.8 miles of existing 100-lb per yard jointed rail with new 115-lb per yard continuously welded rail on the Dakota & Iowa Railroad (D&I) Sioux Valley Subdivision located in South Dakota; and replace existing 1.7 miles of existing 100-lb per yard jointed rail with new 115-lb per yard ribbon rail on the D&I Sioux Valley Subdivision located in Iowa.

    These improvements are needed to solve lingering legacy infrastructure issues, to preserve and enhance capacity, rail access, multimodal connectivity, and interchange connections with three Class I railroads (BNSF Railway, Canadian National Railway, and Union Pacific Railroad), and to accommodate future growth in economic and industrial development in the rural Siouxland region.

    The estimated total project cost is $5.2 million; including $4.0 million in South Dakota and $1.2 million in Iowa. The D&I will contribute $0.8 million toward the $4.0 million construction cost for the South Dakota portion of the project, and is requesting a South Dakota Railroad Trust Fund loan of $1.2 million for the Iowa portion of project. The $3.2 million request for FRA STC grant funds would provide the remaining project funding needed to construct the project.
  • RINGNECK AND WESTERN EFFICIENCY AND GROWTH PROJECT (STC FY 2021) Ringneck and Western Railroad (RWRR – owned by Watco) proposes to build new railroad infrastructure at a site located on railroad-owned property at the intersection of Hwy 281 and Old Hwy 16 in Plankinton, South Dakota that will improve efficiency, reduce fuel consumption, and drive new transload capacity and economic development opportunities. The proposed project includes two main components: 1) a 558-foot locomotive shop track and 2) two 1,500-foot transload tracks for new opportunities. Ancillary project work would include a loadout spur, access roadway for transloading, six new turnouts, and a maintenance pit for locomotive inspections.

    The estimated total project cost is $3.0 million. Watco will provide a 40 percent non-federal match of $1.2 million and requests a FRASTC grant in the amount of $1.8 million (60 percent of the total project cost).

Stakeholder-Proposed Projects

Stakeholder Type Stakeholder Project Type of Improvement Location Estimated Project Cost
Economic Development Agency BFEDC Belle Fourche Economic Development Corporation Industrial and Rail Park Improvements for potential new rail shipper Economic Development Belle Fourche, SD $1.7 million
Railroad SMRR Rail Relay Project on Sisseton Milbank Railroad State of Good Repair Sisseton, SD - Milbank, SD $2.2 million
Railroad EE Construct rail sidings for Encore Rail Park in Brandon for potential new rail shippers Economic Development Brandon, SD $3.0 million
Railroad EE Rail relay project to support 286,000-lb gross weight carloads on the Ellis & Eastern Railroad State of Good Repair Sioux Falls, SD TBD
Railroad EE Restore rail service to Ellis for potential rail shipper State of Good Repair Sioux Falls, SD - Ellis, SD TBD
Railroad RCPE Construct new locomotive repair facility in Huron Economic Development Huron, SD TBD
Railroad SMRR Upgrade rail and bridges to support 286,000-lb gross weight carloads on Sisseton Milbank Railroad State of Good Repair Sisseton, SD - Milbank, SD TBD
Railroad RWRR Restore rail service to Murdo on the MRC Line State of Good Repair Presho, SD - Murdo, SD TBD
Community Community Construct recreational trail between Platte and Ravinia on railbanked railroad right-of-way Adaptive Reuse Platte, SD - Ravinia, SD TBD
Railroad DAIR Construct a meet and pass siding near Fairview on the Sioux Valley Subdivision Capacity Fairview, SD $1.8 million
Railroad DAIR Sioux Valley Subdivision Bridge Upgrades State of Good Repair Canton, SD - Elk Point, SD $40.0 million
Rail Shipper Various Develop a South Dakota rail intermodal container terminal for imports and exports Economic Development TBD TBD
Rail Shipper Various Reduce terminal delay and improve interchange at Sioux City, Iowa bottleneck Capacity Sioux City, IA $3.5 million
Community City of Sioux Falls Construct grade separation at 471st St (Marion Rd) near Sioux Falls (DOT# 097254J) Safety Sioux Falls, SD $10.0 million
Railroad DAIR Install gates at Garfield Avenue in Dell Rapids (DOT# 381716D) Safety Dell Rapids, SD $0.3 million
Railroad DMVW Install flashing light signals and gates on County Road 9 near Britton (DOT# 067500K) Safety Britton, SD $0.3 million
Railroad RWRR Install flashing light signals and gates at Main Street in Kimball (DOT# 386090T) Safety Kimball, SD $0.3 million
Railroad RWRR Install flashing light signals and gates at 397th Avenue in Mt. Vernon (DOT# 386052J) Safety Mt. Vernon, SD $0.3 million

Thank You!

Thank you for your participation in the online public meeting for the South Dakota State Rail Plan. To learn more about any of the topics that were covered in the meeting, please follow the links below:


South Dakota State Rail Plan


Screenshot of State Rail Plan website

South Dakota Department of Transportation

Screenshot of SDDOT website

Federal Railroad Administration


Screenshot of FRA website

Amtrak Passenger Rail Service

Screenshot of Amtrak Passenger website

Amtrak Connect US

Screenshot of Amtrak Connect US website