This post is a about the possibility of passenger rail service in South Dakota. Having passenger service there is a long shot but IMO there is a demand. The state currently owns railroad lines that run across the state from the Eastern border at Sioux Falls to Kadoka in the West. The last part of the railroad line from Kadoka to Rapid City ( SD largest city) for 98.5 miles is no longer there but the ROW has been rail banked by the state.
Why would passenger rail be important there? Rapid City is very close to Mt Rushmore and that is a prime tourist area that brings millions of visitors there every year.. Passenger rail service from Sioux City to Rapid City would connect two of South Dakotas largest cities. Would not some visitors take the train? Lets also not rule out a motorcycle combo train to Sturgis?
How could this happen? Well it would not be by Amtrak. If you look at the railroad lines, they are owned by the state and the routes run by small freight railroads. The state would need to upgrade the line, replace the missing track to Rapid City and contract out the passenger service.
Why might this happen in the future? South Dakota receives generous federal funding. They own most of the tracks.
It would be great for tourism and perhaps provide a boom for business. It sure would be nice to get to Mt Rushmore by rail. Fifty years back the class 1's served Rapid City S.D. so maybe its time to at least look at bringing service back again.
I doubt that Kadoka a to Rapid City would ever be rebuilt. Rapid City has already got rail access via DME (ex-CNW route) from Pierre. This is even more so because beyond Rapid City to the west it goes to nowhere - well, after Belle Fourche it just goes to a mine and ends there
The trans-South Dakota main route was ex-MILW route in the north, through Aberdeen and Mobridge, which is currently an active BNSF route as far as I can tell.
The other trans-South Dakota route is through Pierre and Rapid City to the south to Nebraska, which is currently an active DME route.
Why are we cutting the Builder or rerouting a large portion of its route? It does well currently because of its route, and any reroute would almost certainly result in a drop in ridership.
What's the track speed on the southerly route? Currently the Builder runs mainly on BNSF mainline, which allows a fairly fast timetable. Given that the current competition is a slower US highway where snow can make travel treacherous every now and then, it seems odd to reroute it to compete against 80mph Interstate traffic.
As usual, just like you need to kill the Cardinal to get a service from Philly to Chicago via Pittsburgh, you similarly need to kill the Empire Builder to restore service on the Northern Pacific (now Montana Rail Link) route.
There has been a study to restore what used to be the Amtrak North Coast Hiawatha. The cost estimate as usual is high. It would serve Livingston which is the norther gateway to Yellowstone. But it would not serve Butte since it is now unreachable from the east as service through Homestake Pass is not available any more. It will run through Helena instead, through Mullens Pass, which is the current active MRL route towards Missoula and on to Spokane.
In any case Montana will be very upset if anyone tries to discontinue the Empire builder, as we have seen happen repeatedly. They were not happy when it was briefly downgraded to three times a week either. So it is not going to happen, just like Cardinal is not going away either.
BTW, I would strongly recommend that people actually look at rail maps to verify what is still around today, before starting to build castles in the air.
Edited by jis, 12 December 2017 - 11:00 AM.