DM&E officials meet with Haakon County Commissioners

The Haakon County Board of Commissioners was informed Tuesday, November 6, 2007, that work by Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern crews is slated to begin early in 2008 on a 107 mile stretch from Pierre to Wall.

The work is planned in three segments. In 2008 two lengths between Pierre and just west of Midland will be completed. The first length or railroad bed is between mileposts 486.2 and 490.9 just to the west of Ft. Pierre. A larger length is from milepost 507.2, just east of Van Metre, to milepost 541 outside of Midland.

The second segment, scheduled for 2009, will connect the railroad bed that was constructed in 2008 from milepost 490.8 to milepost 507.2. Length of bed from outside of Pierre to milepost 486.2 and from milepost 541 to milepost 562 will also be done in 2009. The length from milepost 541, just west of Midland, ends just west of Philip.

The final segment, to be completed in 2010, will pickup where it was left off from just west of Philip onto Wall.

Beth Lynn, Sioux Falls, an engineer with DM&E and Frank Doland, Lincoln, NE, an engineer with HWS Consulting Group, meet with the commissioners to outline proposed road crossing through Haakon County. Lynn and Doland asked for suggestions regarding one crossing west of Philip.

That crossing is on County Road #13. This is the road that accesses "Dump road" from the north, passing by Konst Machinery. The existing crossing is already dangerous and any engineering plans they have proposed cannot eliminate the danger, said Doland. He noted that if the railroad bed was moved 25 feet to the north it would put it that much closer to the curve which would create another danger. "I am concerned with this vertical grade on that hill," he said. "And in icy conditions someone will not be able to stop for a train," Lynn said. "Our best recommendation would be to close that road."

Lynn noted that she understands many residents may not like that option. She urged the board to meet with residents to get their thoughts regarding what could be done.

Commissioner Mel Smith noted that he believed that road was made a through road in the 1980s as a so that residents in that area had a second route out if the "dump road" was flooded near the Bad River Park. Since that time County Road #7 has been improved and residents could use that road to get to town in case of flooding near the park.

The commissioners stated that they would contact Lynn and Doland after they have met with residents that would be affected by closure of County Road #13.

Lynn and Doland stated that the train will cross roads 12 times in Haakon County. In some instances those crossings will have lights and gates installed. In other cases the existing signs will be left. These are in low traffic areas, said Doland.

In Midland one road will be closed, as per an agreement with the town. A new road will be built to replace the closed street. Lynn noted that this would eliminate two crossings. The crossing over Highway 63 would remain as is, with the addition of gates and flashing lights.

In Nowlin, two crossings will remain, although the existing mainline will be moved 25 feet to the north. Doland said because there is a low traffic flow through the area and there is good sight visibility for the train and vehicles the crossing would have signs. The second crossing is on a horizontal curve and will not require gates or flashing lights. He did recommend that the county highway department install speed limit signs for safety reasons due to the curve.

In Powell the track bed will be raised and moved to the north 25 feet.

Within the town of Philip, gates and flashing lights will be installed at the crossings near the recycling dumpsters and on Highway 73.

A crossing southwest of town on County Road #7, near the landfill, will be regraded to have a 90 degree angle for the crossing. While there is good visibility, the t-intersection did create some problems as there will be a siding there also. The current siding near Dakota Mill & Grain will be extended west to that area.

Doland informed the commissioners that the 107 miles between Pierre and Wall will be entirely new railroad bed. In some cases the bed will be moved 25 feet north of the existing railroad bed. This will still be within the railroads right-of-way in most cases. Lynn said in a few places land will need to be purchased. Lynn added that every 15 to 20 miles there will be a siding that is one and one-half miles to two miles in length. She said this will allow oppositely traveling trains to bypass each other while continuing to move down the tracks. In some instances there will be two sets of train tracks crossing the county roads.

County commissioner Lawrence Schofield asked Lynn if the plan to haul coal was still in effect. She stated that was correct and that approximately 37 trains each day, going and coming, would be riding the rails through Haakon County. She noted that the loaded trains heading east would be traveling approximately 40 miles per hour. The empty trains headed west would be traveling around 49 mph.

Lynn informed the board that DM&E is, as of October 5, 2007, fully owned by Canadian Pacific Railway. She noted that the Surface Transportation Board noted they would not make a decision until December of 2008 as to if DM&E can be operated as one unit with Canadian Pacific or as two separate entities.