Heavy rains have shut down many miles of South Dakota rails

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Train

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Railroad Board approved a funding agreement Friday to help get a state-owned line back on track.

Board members chose L.G. Barcus and Sons Inc., a Kansas City, Missouri-based company, from five contractors that submitted bids to reconstruct a bridge destroyed at Canton in Lincoln County.

The Dakota and Iowa Railroad operates over the Sioux Valley track.

Many places along the line are under repair because of heavy rains in recent weeks, with the most damage between Canton and Hawarden, Iowa, according to Jack Dokken. He is administrator for railroad operations in the state Department of Transportation.

“The Canton bridge was completely washed out, and there were three other bridges that sustained flooding impacts, and many locations in which the flooding washed out the railroad line,” Dokken said in an email prior to the meeting.

“We have full confidence in their ability to do the job and do it right and do it safely,” D and I President Jack Parliament told the state board. He is a former member.

The MRC route that runs from Mitchell west toward Rapid City is experiencing flood issues from Chamberlain to the area around Presho, including bridge damages, debris and rail-line washouts, according to Dokken.

He said conditions prevent Dakota Southern from operating west of Chamberlain. The company is trying to calculate the financial impact that flooding damages will have on the line.

“Currently Dakota Southern is able to service the shippers east of Chamberlain,” Dokken said. That includes the Gavilon grain terminal near Kimball and the Mitchell box plant. But grain loaders and other customers west of the Missouri River aren’t being served.

Steve Scharnweber, a board member from Pierre, was part of a group that looked at extensive damage west of Chamberlain Thursday. “It’s going to take Mother Nature turning the faucet off,” he said.

In northeastern South Dakota, some damages have been reported for the line from Aberdeen through Britton to Geneseo Junction, North Dakota. Dokken said Dakota, Missouri Valley and Western railroad is assessing the effects on train operations.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad owns 900 miles of track across the northern counties and down the James River valley. The company’s public affairs director, Amy McBeth, said in an email its routes aren’t affected.

Another big company is the Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern railroad, owned by Genesee and Wyoming Railroad Services Inc., that operates on 577 miles of track in South Dakota.

Said Michael Williams, vice president for corporate communications: “The Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad experienced several washouts (west) of Pierre from last week’s rains, two of them severe. After waiting for the waters to recede, all are being worked on by contractors, and we’re hopeful to have them complete by early next week.”

Jerry Vest, a RCPE official, told the board that several culverts west of Fort Pierre were overwhelmed. He said traffic west of Philip is being detoured south through Crawford, Nebraska.

“We do not anticipate an extensive outage of this line,” Vest said. “We’re working as fast as we can to reopen this.”

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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