• 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 Gilbert B Norman
Aberdeen (SD) News

Brief Passage:

  • A Department of Legislative Audits review of funds used by Gov. Mike Rounds to buy a state airplane is prompting a broader, two-year review of South Dakota's accounts....Rounds bought a 1995 King Air 90 for about $1.5 million a year ago after selling two older state airplanes.
    Budget Commissioner Jason Dilges told lawmakers Amtrak funds paid for the airplane, although he said the original check was written from the aeronautics fund and Amtrak money replenished that account.
    Some legislators questioned the authority to make the purchase and whether it was proper to use Amtrak funds, part of $23 million South Dakota received although it's one of six states with no Amtrak lines.
Something simply "doesn't hold water" here.

First, let it be understood that I have no problem whatever with the State adding to its "airline". We should note that it is some 400 miles between Rapid City and Sioux Falls - and South Dakota has only one US Congressional seat. That should say volumes about how sparsely populated the state is. Further, I have no knowledge how South Dakota law provides for the disposition of an unexpended appropriation.

But let us "get real' - $23M for Amtrak in the only contiguous state to have never had an Amtrak train on its rails accross its state.

Here's "my take": I think some 'small market' news reporter 'dropped a decimal' and $230 Thousand became $23 Million. Somewhere over the years, the Legislature appropriated funds for a consultancy to study the feasability of having Amtrak service brought to the State. Funny how legislators have a way of doing such, especially if one has a college professor friend looking to take a sabattical on the taxpayer's dime. There is also the considered possibility that appropriation went unexpended, and simply continued to sit there.

But to me, this whole matter if in fact there is $23M on the table, seems bizarre and has engendered an "enquiring mind that wants to know'.

  by Ken W2KB
Could be a decimal point error. Or it could be that South Dakota did get $23 million in lieu of having Amtrak service when Tom Daschle (D) was Senate Minority Leader. Classic horse trading.

  by David Benton
Could it of been for thruway service that never eventuated ?

  by CNJ
Are they rebuilding the Milwaukee Road mainline and not tell us????

  by Gilbert B Norman
Ken W2KB wrote:Could be a decimal point error. Or it could be that South Dakota did get $23 million in lieu of having Amtrak service when Tom Daschle (D) was Senate Minority Leader. Classic horse trading.
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.

  by AmtrakFan
CNJ wrote:Are they rebuilding the Milwaukee Road mainline and not tell us????
Would be nice and then add Passenger Service from Chicago but the odds are 10 Million to 1 it won't happen.

  by Trainer
In response to citizen noise complaints, the $23 million went for sound dampening the air horns on SD Amtrak service.

It must have been money well spent, since nobody's heard an Amtrak horn in South Dakota ever since.

Everybody's happy.

  by David Benton
:-D ,
or perhaps its to pay "customer satisfaction gaurantees" , for an Amtrak train to south Dakota , which is now running over 30 years late .

  by prr60
First: apologies are owed to the Aberdeen (SD) News and the AP. The article is absolutely accurate. The decimal point is in exactly the right spot. South Dakota did receive $23 million (actually $23.3 million) dollars from Amtrak, albeit seven years ago.

Here is the long story (there is no short story):

The Taxpayer Relief Act (TRA) of 1997 (PL 105-34) was a huge, all-encompassing piece of legislation. One section of that Act involved Amtrak.

TRA Section 997 provided that Amtrak would receive a “refund” of taxes amounting to $2.3 billion over two years. The money was granted based on some interesting interpretations of the tax law. Basically it said that while Amtrak had lost money every year since its inception, the predecessor passenger railroads, now freight only, were and had been making money and paying income tax since 1971. The theory held that had Amtrak not been formed, the private railroads would not have made much or any profit since 1971, and therefore would not have paid very much or any income tax. So, the logic follows, a portion of the taxes received by the treasury since 1971 from the former passenger railroads could be considered a direct result of Amtrak. Thus it made sense to provide a portion of that railroad income tax revenue received since 1971 to Amtrak as a thank you from the Treasury for helping the freight railroads make money and pay taxes. That portion just happened to be $2.3 billion, which just happened to be what Amtrak needed over and above the regular appropriation for major capital expenditures including Acela and the New England electrification. It was a pretty slick way to get Amtrak the money promised to them in the $5 billion 1997 Amtrak Authorization without technically paying that $2.3 billion portion out in the normal appropriation.

Of course, every piece of legislation needs votes, and there was very little in this section of the TRA to make the six states that did not have Amtrak service very excited. So, a neat little extra clause was added. When Amtrak received each of two installment payments of $1.165 billion from the TRA, they would within 30 days, pay each of those six non-Amtrak state 1% of the loot or $11.65 million to each state twice. The total each state, including South Dakota received was $23.3 million. The states could use the money for any “qualified” use, which in the TRA was defined as payments for local rail or bus service.

The question being raised now in South Dakota concerns whether or not the state’s use of the “Amtrak” money was proper.

  by Gilbert B Norman
In some small manner, I should have some "egg on my face' regarding Mr. Pittsburgher's (PRR 60) emplanation. As a licensed CPA when TRA 1997 was enacted, I should have been more familiar with that provision than evidently I was, however, my "thrust' with TRA 1997, as well as that of seminar speakers giving instruction on the Act, was how to use such to the best advantage of my own clients - none of which were railroads.

However, it would appear that the provision appeared to be a piece of what's called 'revenue sharing'.

Where I believe the paper's reporting was faulty was that such did not include any further explanation as to the source of these 'Amtrak Funds'; even a simplistic line to the effect of 'the $23 million of Amtrak funds arose from a 1997 tax law'. That would have triggered enough memory jog to me to recall there was some obscrue provision in the Act with regard to Amtrak.

OK, I'll accept that the paper need not print a correction, but an amplifcation would be the order of the day.

In closing, please allow me to heartilly thank Mr. Pittsburgher for his concise and factual explanation regarinng this legislation; Commerce Clearing House (my "service") or Prentice-Hall could not have done better. That is why we have a Forum here that I believe is unique when compared with others out there.
  by Jeff Smith
Badlands: KOTATV.com
Amtrak could be rolling its way through the Black Hills

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Amtrak covers 21,000 miles of track and operates up to 300 trains per day, and those numbers could be increasing. The Federal Railroad Administration is looking into bringing Amtrak to South Dakota.

Existing railways would be used for the Amtrak routes. Although they are looking to expand Amtrak’s routes, it could still be a couple of years before anything is in the works. The federal study is due to Congress next spring and it will be up to Congress to decide if they want to implement service.

“They’re only looking at where this is existing rail infrastructures, such as RCPE line or the Badlands route that are the different opportunities they would have to look at getting passenger rail service here,” said Dan Bilka, president, All Aboard Northwest.

Last year, Amtrak carried 22.9 million passengers, and if more routes are added this could bring more tourists to the Black Hills.
  by markhb
Having visited South Dakota twice as a tourist, I consider myself an expert on the state ;-) . As such, I note:
  • The South Dakota Rail Map is here. Presumably, they would want to use the royal blue line (Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern). There are also green BNSF lines that go.... nowhere anyone wants to go.
  • The Wyoming rail map is:
    Wyoming Rail Map.png
    Note that the Rapid City dead-ends shortly after entering the northeastern corner of the state. The BNSF lines go many places but, again, don't serve the popular areas of South Dakota.
So, that's what I see as the key roadblock to Amtrak service to South Dakota: either the route is a very long dead-end from Minnesota, or it makes a very long loop and connects back to the Zephyr somewhere in Nebraska.
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  by Gilbert B Norman
The cook is banging on the wagon wheel with his tire iron:

"Come and get it"!!!! And here come the consultants to "chow down".

So I guess if there is anywhere in South Dakota that could be called a "Corridor", I guess it would be Mpls-Aberdeen. After all, that was the last truncation of the Olympian Hi to stand.

Thst line is today operated by BNSF the Hi was gone before I hired on with the MILW.
  by markhb
Looking at some options that would involve new track, again on the assumption that they a) want the train to make it to Rapid City, and b) they don't want to do a long dead-end from Rochester, Minn.:
  • A new line running from the point that the RCPE (I guess that's the reporting mark) crosses I-90 just northwest of Sturgis and running west to connect to the BNSF in Moorcroft, WY would be roughly 67 miles as the crow flies, or c. 75 miles running down the median of I-90.
  • A new line running south from the BNSF in Selby to connect to the RCPE in Onida, largely parallel to US-83, would be roughly 55 miles.
In keeping with Mr. Norman's observation, I shall be contacting Amtrak and SDDOT and offering them these wise observations for a nominal fee.
  by eolesen
And that sums up why this is just the latest episode of Consultants at the Trough.

Service across the Dakotas to the Black Hills ended for good cause...

Looks like the preferred route parallels US-14, and there's really nothing of any consequence between Rapid City and Rochester MN. Having spent some time as a tourist myself out at the Badlands and Rapid City, I can't imagine why this is a priority for anyone.