Mercer mistates on Rails to the Future

on Mon Feb 24 2014, 03:49pm | by Kim

Bob Mercer writing on the Rails to the Future (SB137) testimony during the Senate Appropiations Committee reported that SD Wheatgrowers CEO Dale Locken stated they will build in Presho.  Mr Locken did not state Presho or any location on the rail as a site for construction and refered only to the "rail west of Chamberlain".
Mr Locken's testimony is at about 40:30 and he is asked a question at 57 minutes in.

Time for Action

on Sun Feb 23 2014, 11:33am | by Kim

Dear Rails to the Future supporter,
I am pleased to inform you that our legislation to appropriate funding to rehabilitate the railroad from Chamberlain-west (SB 137) passed the State Appropriations Committee with a unanimous vote this morning.  The bill now moves to the Senate Floor and will be debated on Tuesday, February 25th
Please contact State Senators across the state and urge them to support the legislation.  The easiest way to contact them is by email through this link-
Just click on their name, and then click on the link that says “Contact Senator….”
The Office of the Governor testified in opposition to the legislation so we also urge you to contact the Office of the Governor and urge Governor Daugaard to support the project.   His office main telephone number is 605.773.3212.  If you call over the weekend, you can leave a message.  His email contact page is
I have attached some talking points and an economic summary that you can use to help write your message.  The more personal your email or phone message, the better- and please be respectful. 
If you contact a legislator and/or the Governor, please let me know so I can keep track of how many contacts have been made and who specifically has been contacted. 
We still have a lot of work to do and our work ahead will be very difficult, but this project is gaining some steam and we need to capitalize on our momentum now by contacting senators and the Governor. 

Amended SB 137 passes Senate Appropiations.

on Sat Feb 22 2014, 08:36am | by Kim

A unanimous Senate appropriations committee voted to send SB 137 to the full senate with an amendment.
Senator Timmerman introduced an amendment to restore 6 million from the Property Tax relief fund to fund SB 137. 
In 2005 $40 million was moved to The PropertyTax Relief Fund from the railroad fund. Those funds came from the sale of rail line to the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern railroad. Sen Vehle reminded Senator's on the committee that it was stated at the time that if a viable railroad project presented itself that money would be available for use on state owned railroad.
The Senate Appropriation  Committee spent 45 minutes hearing testimony from Sen Mike Vehle, prime sponsor of the bill, ; Steve Halverson , Chair of Rails to the Future; Dale Locken : CEO of South Dakota Wheatgrowers: Chuck Jepson, builder of Liberty Grain in Kimball; Angela Ehlers of Presho; Rep James Schaeffer of Kennebec and Nick Jorgenson of Brookings provided economic analysis. 
Opposition to the bill was voiced by Emily Ward, South Dakota Bureau of Finance & Management and Matt Konenkamp the Governors Policy Advisor for Transportation.

SB 137 in Appropiations Committee

on Sat Feb 22 2014, 08:31am | by Kim

01/31/2014First read in Senate and referred to Senate Appropriations S.J. 183  
02/21/2014Scheduled for hearingAudio Available20:08
02/21/2014Appropriations Motion to amend, Passed Amendment 137mdAudio Available20:08
02/21/2014Appropriations Do Pass Amended, Passed, YEAS 9, NAYS 0. S.J. 400Audio Available20:08

Rails to the Future!

on Tue Feb 11 2014, 10:47pm | by Kim

Lyman County Herald February 5, 2014

Farmers, legislators and other interested parties attended a meeting in Kennebec last Thursday night to discuss the feasibility of restoring rail service to Lyman County.

The meeting was called by Rep. Jim Schaefer to address funding the rehabilitation of the rail line currently operated by Dakota Southern Railroad from Chamberlain west to Presho.

Rep. Schaefer opened the meeting with news that he had dropped a bill in the 2014 South Dakota legislature Thursday requesting $6 million dollars to fund the rehab project. Senate Bill 137 was introduced by Senator Mike Vehle of Mitchell, and co-signed by Schaefer.According to Schaefer, the Governer's bill to allocate $1.2 million to rehab the bridge over the Missouri River at Chamberlain plus the $3.8 million the state Rail Board currently has would total about $5 million for the project.

"If we could get another $6 million, we’d have about $11 million. That’s approximately a third of what it’s going to take to do the entire project,”said Schaefer. The cost to replace just the 150 bridges and culverts along the 42-mile line from Chamberlain to Presho could be between $8 and $10 million. The SD Department of Transportation used a cost estimate of $28 million dollars when they applied for the TIGER grant in 2013. According to Kevin Tveidt, transportation specialist with the DOT, who was in attendance at the meeting, the majority of that would be the Chamberlain to Reliance section, estimated at $14 million for tie, rail, bridge and culvert repair or replacement. It would take another $8 million to reach Kennebec and $6 million to finish the line to Presho. The entire project could take two years to complete. It was stated that the price of steel has dropped as much as 25 percent since these estimates were complied using heavy rail, both new and used.

The railroad bridge at Chamberlain is well built but does need new wood ties and heavier rail to upgrade it for larger trains. While Governor Daugaard's budget request for $1.2 million for bridge repair is before this year's legislature, the Governor has stated that there is no reason to fund the repairs if the line isn't going to continue. With that in mind, the Governor has called for a rail study to prioritize the need of the state-owned lines. The three lines being most discussed by the DOT include the DSR, the Napa to Platte, and a line at Britton. The study is expected to be completed by the summer of 2014. Bill Ferguson, Ideal, stated he believes the governor wants to wait until the study is completed before deciding which line to support funding.

"Maybe we'd be better off to get the first section done and get a train to Reliance,” stated Schaefer explaining that the line going further west could be upgraded at a later date with lighter rail or as more funding becomes available.

"Rehabbing just to Reliance could favor one business over another,” said Alex Huff, former owner of the DSR. Huff said it was his understanding that several businesses have options to purchase land in Lyman County to build a 110-car load out facility along the rail line.It is recommended that large load out facilities not be built too close together. The Gavilon Liberty Grain facility near Kimball is approximately 40 miles from Reliance.To upgrade the rail line to allow shuttle trains across the river the current 65 lbs per yard rail in place would need to be replaced with at least 115 lb per yard rail.

"I think we need to go with the heaviest rail we can, over the whole line, if we want to be able to use this line for the next 50 years,” said Ferguson, Ideal. Jason Glodt, a lobbyist from Pierre, said there was a lot of support in the legislature and with the governor this year for the rail project.

"It would be a a good spot for one time money,” said Glodt, referring to the $125 million from the unclaimed property fund that the state has available this year.Glodt added that investing in the state-owned rail lines is the kind of economic development that can bring a good return back to the state.Transporting grain by train rather than truck can add as much as 10 to 30 cents per bushel to the price area farmers in the area could get for their crops.

"Having rail in Lyman County will put more money in farmer's pockets,” said Huff. Fergurson asked the crowd if they believed strongly enough in bringing rail service back to Lyman County to support the project financially.The majority of the crowd raised their hand in agreement. It was the consensus of the group organize a committee to collect money to hire a lobbyist to promote funding the rail line rehab project in Lyman County at the 2014 legislature.

"Rails to the future” was a name suggested by Ferguson."We've ready reached the future, and our old infrastructure is no longer sufficient,” added Ferguson.

Steve Halverson was nominated to chair the committee, with Ferguson acting as vice chair. Both have worked together on the State Wheat Commission. Bryan Jorgenson, also of Ideal, and a current member of the SD Crop Improvement boardand a past member of the SD Corn Council was named secretary/treasurer.Anyone wishing to make a contribution to fund the promotion of Rails to the Future may contact any committee member.

Looks like it's unanimous,” said Schaefer with regards to the majority of the crowd being in favor of trying to get to Presho or even Vivian. “We're going to work hard to get this done!”

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