• Amtrak to South Dakota

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

  by dgvrengineer
I went to college in SD many moons ago. Trust me, there are very few rail lines in SD that could support passenger trains without a total rebuild. The two major exceptions are the BNSF in the far southwestern corner of the state which was the last passenger route in that state and only passes through one small town. The other is the BNSF route from the Twin Cities through Wilmar, Marshall, Sioux Falls, Sioux City, Omaha, St. Joseph and Kansas City. I rode this line several years ago and BNSF maintains it to at least class III standards. It was a very smooth ride. The exception is Sioux Falls to Sioux City which would need serious work. BNSF line deadends in Sioux Falls from the north and a short line controls the line between those two cities. Sioux Falls is also the largest city in the state. The DME has put a lot of money into it's line in the past few years, but the ground west of the Missouri River is unstable. They have upped the speed from 10 to 25, but would require big bucks to get any faster than that.
  by superbad
I could see this being done out of the Chicago hub as it would add yet another train to the Empire Builder corridor up to Winona and then picking up Rochester, Souix Falls, Pierre then Rapid City.
  by Tadman
Like, this is the most remote state we have other than Alaska. And a large portion of the trackage serving major cities is probalby <40mph short line. The only viable connection I see is Sioux Falls to Minneapolis on BNSF.
  by ryanwc
There's an article about this possibility this morning, from the town of Mitchell, SD.
https://www.mitchellrepublic.com/news/s ... uth-dakota

I'd note that while the paper speculates about Rapid City, the actual FRA map shows a somewhat more sensible arc from the Twin Cities through Sioux Falls to Omaha. Sioux Falls is about a quarter of the state's population, and roughly a third of S. Dakotans live in the SE 1/10th of the state. A thruway bus from Rapid City could help provide additional connectivity.

A more economical option would be to merge North and South Dakota and proclaim that since the existing Amtrak network does serve the new state of Dakota, all is well.
  by John_Perkowski
If you think SD is going to give up their Congresscritters, you need a drug and alcohol test.
  by ryanwc
If you thought that was a serious suggestion, you need to consider one.

Also, language like "Congresscritter" seems kind of classless.
  by markhb
Looking at the maps again, and reiterating that I do not think this is a good idea, one could cobble a through-route together as:
  • BNSF from St. Paul to Sioux Falls via Willmar & Marshall;
  • BNSF again from Rapid City to Wolsey via Canton and Mitchell;
  • Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern to Rapid City via Pierre;
  • RCPE again to Crawford, Nebraska via Dakota Junction;
  • BNSF and UP south to Denver.
Again, I'm not saying anyone should do this, but it is a route that appears to be viable trackage on the various state rail maps. I hadn't thought of it previously because I've followed I-90 west towards Wyoming and Montana on my trips out there.
  by richardajensen
Hi, just joined to share a few facts and make a few suggestions/guesses...

I'm a lifelong resident of the state, but most of this info comes from the SD rail plan released last December.

First off, Sioux Falls to Rapid City is a nonstarter. There isn't even a direct freight link. The Milwaukee Road track from Murdo to Rapid has been taken up and all that's left is a state owned ROW with eroded railbed.

Low-hanging fruit would be, IMO, places with Class III track already in place.

Along those lines, you've got Pierre to Minneapolis, using RCPE to Florence, Minnesota, and BNSF the rest of the way.

You can serve Minneapolis to Aberdeen using BNSF, and you can also serve Sioux Falls from Minneapolis on BNSF.

The problem with all of these routes, IMO, is ridership. Brookings is the largest city on the Pierre/Minneapolis route served exclusively by this route. It has about 25,000 residents (and a university with about 10,000 students). Aberdeen is the largest city on the route between it and Minneapolis, and it's just a bit larger than Brookings.

Now if you start upgrading track, here are some options:

D&I 57 miles from Sioux Falls to Sioux City. I don't think this is just a 'loop' from Minneapolis, as it connects the two largest metros in the northern plains. It also streamlines traffic from Minneapolis to the west, at least that part not served by the Empire Builder.

RCPE: roughly 88 miles of the Black Hills subdivision, which gives you a Class III connection to Denver. Here, again, ridership is an issue. But if you also upgrade the 167 mile connection between Pierre and Rapid City, you have a Class III connection from Minneapolis to Denver. This route would unquestionably be faster than Minneapolis to Chicago to Denver, which is the only current option, but I don't know if it would be faster than the Minneapolis to Omaha to Denver route outlined above. It would certainly be more expensive to build out.

The RCPE sections, BTW, are scheduled for upgrades to Class II status, so you could potentially piggyback on that investment.
  by markhb
I cannot edit my prior post, but note that I meant Sioux Falls as the starting point in Item 2:
markhb wrote: Sun Dec 03, 2023 10:02 am
  • BNSF from St. Paul to Sioux Falls via Willmar & Marshall;
  • BNSF again from Rapid City Sioux Falls to Wolsey via Canton and Mitchell;
  • Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern, Wolsey to Rapid City via Pierre;
  • RCPE again, Rapid City to Crawford, Nebraska via Dakota Junction;
  • BNSF and UP south to Denver.
  by STrRedWolf
ryanwc wrote: Sat Dec 02, 2023 1:03 pm If you thought that was a serious suggestion, you need to consider one.

Also, language like "Congresscritter" seems kind of classless.
Given the actions of the members of Congress lately (and historically), "Congress critter" seems to be an apt, appropriate, and accurate. When said members exude the proper professional class, style, and grace that is required of said position of stature... when said members actually become human, is when I can say such members are "Congress people."

But this is RAILROAD.NET, not any Inside the Beltway site. We just discuss how to shuttle those "Congress critters" when they actually decide to take the train for once.
  by Jeff Smith
Some healthy skepticism expressed: South Dakota Searchlight
Amtrak ambition: The lonely quest to break SD’s resistance to passenger rail

You can’t reach Mount Rushmore by passenger rail. Or the Badlands. Or Wall Drug.

Or just about anywhere else in South Dakota. It’s one of two states in the contiguous U.S. without Amtrak passenger train service – and the only one to have never had it.
The Sturgis city manager and head of the Grant County Economic Development Corporation have also sent letters of support for passenger rail, but LaCroix isn’t holding his breath for a South Dakota Amtrak station ribbon cutting.

“We probably won’t see it in our lifetime,” LaCroix told South Dakota Searchlight.
“Outside of the advocacy sphere, there is doubt among other stakeholders as to whether South Dakota has the appropriate population density to justify investments in developing and operating passenger rail service.”


  by arthur d.
Gilbert B Norman wrote: Tue Jan 03, 2006 4:07 pm

I think investigation will prove that to be correct Mr. Ken. Maybe Jeff could go out there (on his track car of course) and give that reporter a lesson in how to use a calculator. :P :P

If not, certainly a hug and a kiss.
I'm having Buster Keaton flashbacks from that comment.
  by Jeff Smith
Experts: SiouxLandProud.com
Railroad experts weight in on South Dakotas inclusion on updated passenger rail map
One of the proposed ways South Dakota might be represented and included in the AMTRAK long-distance traveling survey is a route that swerves through South Dakota from Minneapolis to Denver and back.
“Everyday service, whether it be like a 3-day service. If it was put into place between Minneapolis and Denver and said they would provide Rapid City and Pierre and some of the central South Dakota communities service, it could look entirely different,” Mills said.
  by Jeff Smith
Unlikely: DakotaNewsNow.com
Transportation Secretary throws cold water on South Dakota Amtrak expansion

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - While momentum for Amtrak expansion to South Dakota has been growing for months, the state’s Transportation Secretary is doubtful it will ever become reality.

No state official had commented on the Federal Railroad Administration’s Long Distance Service Study until Wednesday when Jundt addressed the topic during a State Railroad Board meeting, the first since the FRA released its third round of meeting materials.

“I’m just being as honest as possible here. I do not see any routes in South Dakota rising to the top from a high-priority standpoint. As you know, just the cost of physically doing rail in our state is very expensive,” Jundt said during Wednesday’s meeting.