Still looking for funding for rail line
The third time was not a charm for the South Dakota Department of Transportation’s application for funds through the TIGER V grant program. For the third time in three years, the state’s request for funding to rehabilitate 42 miles of the MRC (Mitchell to Rapid City) Railroad line from Chamberlain west to Presho was denied.
Fifty-two TIGER V grants totaling $474 million were announced by the US Department of Transportation earlier this month. The only South Dakota project to receive funding through the federal program was an $8 million highway project to rebuild BIA 2 on the Pine Ridge Reservation .
“Very disappointing,” said Brule Lindholm, South Daktoa DOT rail road program manager following the announcement of the 2013 TIGER grant recipients.
Lindholm had high expectations last spring when he completed the application request for $20 million to help fund the estimated $29 million rehab project.
“It’s real competitive. There are some politics involved in the selection,” said Lindholm as he explained that the current administration has an influence on the selection process.
For two years in a row, projects that involved walking or biking paths received the majority of the funding.
“They seemed to favor livability type projects,” said Lindholm. “Projects that enhance the quality of life.”
In the state’s application, he tried to explain that rehabbing the rail line from Chamberlain to Presho would benefit the people who live in this area by adding jobs, and improving the per capita income for citizens by reducing the cost of grain transportation. Area businesses, governing bodies and individuals also submitted letters of support for the project, but, it effort was not enough to secure a grant.
“We’re not giving up. We’re still looking for ways to fund this project, said Lindholm. District 26B Representative Jim Schaefer of Kennebec has been asked to serve on a state Rail Planning Advisory Committee to study funding options.
“We have a meeting set for October 9th in Sioux Falls,” said Schaefer. “Hopefully, we’ll have some ideas presented.”
Schaefer and Lindholm agree there is universal interest and support in the area for the rehab project.
The rail line from Mitchell to Chamberlain, operated by the Dakota Southern Railway, was rebuilt over the past couple of years with a $17 million TIGER grant awarded in 2010 in addition to other funding sources.
According to Lindholm, finish work will wrap up within the next several weeks on the 61-mile line between Mitchell and Chamberlain. Crews have been replacing mismatched ties to remove bumps in the track.
“We bought 2,400 new ties and 800 good used ones to fix the bumps in the line,” said Lindholm.
Bids were recently let for the third time to sell salvage material and clean up along the track.
We’ll continue searching for the means to fund this project,” said Lindholm. “We just haven’t landed on the right option yet.”