Watch Now

South Dakota short line among winners of RAISE grants

Projects aim to improve freight flows, encourage use of freight rail

A freight train at a rail crossing. (Photo: Joanna Marsh/FreightWaves)

The Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad (RCP&E), a Genesee & Wyoming short line in Rapid City, South Dakota, is involved in a project that has just received a $22 million federal grant.

The South Dakota freight capacity expansion project will upgrade 163 miles of the RCP&E main line between Fort Pierre and Rapid City in order to improve freight flows between western South Dakota and Wyoming. The project received the $22 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant, and it also garnered $20 million from South Dakota. RCP&E is also committing $42 million to the project.

Improvements entail replacing nearly 88 miles of rail with 136-pound continuously welded rail, upgrading 121 bridge structures and installing 11 main line turnouts as well as 80,000 crossties, according to G&W. 

By upgrading the infrastructure, the Fort Pierre to Rapid City corridor will be able to accommodate 286,000-pound railcars at a minimum of 25 mph. The corridor currently permits 263,000-pound freight cars traveling at 10 mph. 

RCP&E spans 700 miles total, with customers in South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wyoming. It connects with BNSF, Canadian Pacific and Union Pacific.

“With this federal grant, associated support by the state of South Dakota and our own significant investment, RCP&E will offer West River a highly competitive link to three major railroads on the national freight network,” said Rod Wiseman, RCP&E general manager. “These major track upgrades will support the West River economy, improve the productivity of current customer supply chains and further enhance the attractiveness of western South Dakota for new business investments.”

The South Dakota Department of Transportation is the grant recipient.

Other projects receiving RAISE grants

A number of other projects nationwide that are pertinent to freight rail also received funding. They include:

  • $2.79 million to the city of Trinidad in Prowers County, Colorado, for a Southwest Chief La Junta route restoration project to replace the last 34 miles of unrehabilitated track on the route. The project is designed to improve freight movement reliability and reduce delays.
  • $13.5 million to Springfield, Illinois, for a project that includes double-tracking a portion of the Chicago to St. Louis corridor used by Union Pacific and Amtrak in order to enable speeds of 110 mph. The corridor would also be relocated to a new expanded corridor adjacent to existing Norfolk Southern tracks near Springfield. Project goals include eliminating at-grade railroad crossings. 
  • $8 million to Scott County, Minnesota, to construct a grade-separated interchange at Township Highway 282/County Highway 9 and a bridge over the Union Pacific line. The project aims to “eliminate” the conflict between vehicles and freight trains at the existing highway-rail grade crossing.
  • $17.25 million to the Missouri Department of Transportation to rehabilitate and improve Norfolk Southern’s Grand River Bridge west of Brunswick. The project will replace the main channel crossing with ballast-deck steel superstructure with through truss. “The improvements to the bridge will help to reduce complications associated with excessive flooding and will help prevent the bridge from collapsing again. The bridge improvements would alleviate the impacts of climate change on railroad infrastructure and operations. The project will overall result in safer railroad and help contribute to a state of good repair by improving the rail resilience and reducing service disruptions. Without improvements to the Grand River Bridge, freight rail traffic would have to be rerouted, causing extensive and expensive delays,” according to a DOT fact sheet.
  • $7.12 million to the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District in Findlay, Ohio, for the Blanchard River Norfolk Southern bridge replacement project. The project would replace the railroad bridge that stretches over the Blanchard River with a three-span, through plate girder, ballast deck bridge, according to DOT, which said the current bridge is 100 years old and replacing it with a taller and longer structure will reduce the risk of flooding for the area.
  • $16 million to the Port of Longview in Washington to expand the port’s existing industrial rail corridor by adding two 8,500-foot rail sidings and extending the current tracks by 1,000 feet to accommodate unit trains. “The project would improve safety on the rail line by providing for inspection roads on both sides of each track to allow for trains to be fully inspected for safety issues prior to further movement as the port currently lacks this ability today. Quality-of-life benefits are demonstrated by the applicant screening for and identifying benefits to environmental justice communities located near the project. By allowing unit trains to service other terminals within the port without having to be cut into more manageable lengths or stored while awaiting processing, the project will provide additional operational efficiency,” DOT said.
  • $6.77 million to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to rehabilitate and replace bridge components on approximately five existing rail structures and restore approximately a half mile of railroad trackage in Rock County. The improvements would support a modal shift from trucks to rail and decrease congestion on the highways.
  • $2 million to the Rail Authority of East Mississippi for planning and preconstruction activities, including environmental reviews, field surveying and mapping, to complete a 60-mile Class III rail line connecting two existing short line railroads to establish continuous rail service in Wayne, Greene and George counties.
  • $2.08 million to Aberdeen, Washington, to complete preliminary engineering, environmental approvals and right-of-way plans to replace the at-grade railroad crossing and signalized intersection of U.S. 12 and the Puget Sound and Pacific short line rail line with an overpass and roundabout at the Chehalis Street intersection. DOT said about eight to 10 trains per day block access for up to 30 minutes each to a commercial plaza adjacent to U.S. 12 and the short line rail. 

Full lists of the RAISE grant recipients are here and here.

Subscribe to FreightWaves’ e-newsletters and get the latest insights on freight right in your inbox.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.