After conducting a first-hand examination of the type of upgrades to DM&E Railroad track that would be made possible by a pending federal loan, South Dakota members of the Growth Opportunities Through Rail Access Coalition (GOTRAC) launched an effort to demonstrate support of the upgrade to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
GOTRAC, which includes over 90 organizations that represent over a million people, issued the plea after traveling outside Huron along DM&E tracks, which offered a comparison of aging, 80-year-old track with the benefits of new, continuous welded track that would be installed with modernized signaling.
Members of GOTRAC also said they will be using the South Dakota State Fair as a launching point to gather support statements from the public to submit to the FRA.
“The status quo is unacceptable,” said Bob Rademacher, of Dakota Energy Cooperative, Huron. “Our customers’ electric bills keep going up. Rail capacity and competition problems are the number one reason for higher electricity rates. DM&E is a solution. The DM&E upgrade will boost this region’s economy, providing added rail capacity and better service to today’s shippers – both of which will create thousands of jobs. And expanded access to clean Powder River Basic coal will give consumers a hand by helping attack high energy prices.”
“For more than eight years, federal authorities have conducted a meticulous and detailed review of the DM&E upgrade,” said Mary Pearson, Mayor of Huron. “It has passed every regulatory hurdle, and DM&E has exhibited cooperation throughout the entire process to communities up and down the line. Businesses, community leaders and citizens are literally button-holing me on the street asking how they can help. The State Fair is a great opportunity to give people a voice in support of this project –not just in Huron but in communities all along the line. The project has great positive impacts for the region. We’ll be doing even more to build excitement for the project.”
The DM&E has applied for a $2.3 billion loan from the FRA to help finance $6 billion in rail upgrades to improve safety, transportation access, create jobs and assist farmers in getting a better return on crops. The FRA recently issued an environmental review that reaffirmed the project’s value. The FRA is taking public comments until October 10, 2006.
Major South Dakota economic development groups, farm organizations, shippers and others echoed those comments noting that they would make sure their member’s support is heard by the FRA, members of Congress and the Governor.
“The DM&E upgrade is more than necessary," said Reid Jensen, president of the South Dakota Corn Growers Association and SD GOTRAC chairman. "It’s an exciting opportunity for producers throughout our region. With
Rich Mueller, Manager, Dakota Ag Co-op in St. Lawrence, representing the SD Association of Cooperatives added: “Expanding rail capacity is a crucial part of assuring a healthy farm economy. In this region, access to markets is all-important. Today