S.D. panel decides to railbank more of state-owned line between Napa and Platte

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Railroad Board decided Wednesday to seek railbank status for another piece of a state-owned line.

The state board agreed to ask the federal Surface Transportation Board. It would affect about 33 miles of track between Tyndall and Ravinia on the Napa-Platte route north of Yankton.

Dakota Southern Railway currently leases the line between Ravinia and Napa from state government.

Company official Heath Haden told the state board he expects the company’s contract would be adjusted to reflect the shorter distance of Tyndall to Napa.

The segment from Ravinia to Platte already is railbanked. If the STB approves the new application, the board’s next step would be removing the rail and ties from Tyndall to Platte.

The salvage value could be $900,000 to $1 million, according to Joel Jundt, deputy secretary for the state Department of Transportation.

Jundt said the money would be put in the state rail trust fund for later use.

The rail is too light to handle modern train loads. It possibly could be used in mining, although those companies might be interested in rail with a smaller base, according to Bruce Lindholm, a former state railroad administrator.

Karla Engle, the board’s lawyer, said a realistic timetable would be getting the railbanking approved this year and proceeding to the salvage work next year. She said the rail doesn’t need to be removed for a segment to be railbanked, so long as some trail use is possible.

Engle said a trail sponsor could be required to remove whatever improvements were made. She said the trail could be designated off the rail bed to the side.

Jundt said rail crossings were taken off city streets and state highways on railbanked western segments of the MRC line between Mitchell and Rapid City.

“I see no detriment to starting the wheels in motion railbanking,” board member Steve Scharnweber of Pierre said.

Engle said it isn’t difficult to take a line out of railbank status. “It’s a pretty straightforward process,” she said.

Jundt said he doesn’t see a downside to railbanking. “There’s money sitting on the ground there,” he said. “I don’t see any negative towards moving forward with this.”

The stretch west of Tyndall would be removed from the Dakota Southern contract, according to Engle.

Said Jundt, “We were not envisioning the state to build any type of trail there.”

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