Imagine a rail passenger transportation system routed between the cities of Brookings, Pierre, Rapid City and Sturgis. All cities and towns connected in between by a 3-car electric commuter train. This could be South Dakota’s first rail passenger service, with a potential future collaboration of Amtrak and Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad.

South Dakota is one of only two states, with Wyoming, that does not have rail passenger transportation. Over the next 15 years, Amtrak has a plan called, “Amtrak-Connect-Us”, which will develop, fund and expand our nation’s transportation infrastructure.

For the RCP&E railroad, a successful hauler of grain, food and agricultural products, all the way between South Dakota’s east and west border along with Amtrak, a perfect rail system for the future. Double-track portions of the RCP&E to increase freight service capabilities and draw new industrial customers along the way. The commuter trains would stop at every town the rail line crosses through, providing a weatherproof travel option every day for central South Dakota.

It’s in the news; Wyoming today has a planned Amtrak from Denver to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Promoted by a cooperative effort of business and political leadership from northern Colorado and Wyoming, “Amtrak Connects US” program and the BNSF and Union Pacific railroads. All the stakeholders are in place and next is the funding for construction to be sourced from federal infrastructure stimulus. Surprised? “Progressive Railroading”, an industrial magazine, May 2021 edition has the facts. Now is the time for South Dakota to break even bigger news!

Let’s get to it, this is how to start a design, build and operation plan...similar to Wyoming, but with more advanced transportation technology benefiting all involved. A collaboration of South Dakota legislative representatives, both state and federal, the RCP&E railroad, Amtrak and rail car industry technicians. ALSTOM rail industries have the electric battery power for passenger cars being tested now. The clean, green batteries gain power with portions of the route electric power equipped with overhead catenary cables and pantograph pick-up, those cables re-charge the batteries along the way. Fully charged the battery-powered passenger cars continue on their own. Double-track portions of the RCP&E railroad route to accommodate increased freight volume and expanded freight customer development. Ultimately; the complete railroad could be converted to electric power for freight and passenger.

Everybody wins with advanced rail transit technology and additional track upgrades. South Dakota would get the state’s first rail passenger service, more regional economic development and new jobs. The RCP&E, an expansion of freight customers and service. Hop on and head to Rapid City, Brookings, or even Sturgis for the bike rally.

William Hume is retired from infrastructure land surveying for civil engineering, these days writing opinion essays nationally about infrastructure issues.

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