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South Dakota city backs DM&E's Powder River Basin project

So far, the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad Corp. (DM&E) is batting 55 for 56 when it comes to gaining community support for its $2 billion Powder River Basin (PRB) project. Yesterday, the 1,100-mile regional announced Brookings, S.D., has signed a community partnership agreement, which formally backs the project and requires the railroad to address certain mitigation issues.

The DM&E proposes to build a 262.3-mile line through western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming, and upgrade 600 miles of other potential coal-hauling lines in South Dakota and Minnesota to access the PRB.

Now, all cities along the projected South Dakota route and all but one community along the proposed Minnesota line support the project — a total of 55 cities. The city of Rochester has not signed a community partnership agreement primarily because the Mayo Clinic opposes the project, according to the DM&E.

“We already have accomplished a degree of consensus that is unprecedented in a project of this magnitude [and] this has never been done in the railroad industry,” said DM&E President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Schieffer in a prepared statement. “It would be great, though, to include all 56.”

Earlier this week, the city of Mankato, Minn., signed a community partnership agreement that encourages the DM&E to relocate its proposed route away from city limits and toward a rural county area south of the city. Railroad executives are working with city and county officials to determine the feasibility of a new route, which would mean the proposed lines will traverse 57 communities, said Schieffer.

The DM&E has received final Surface Transportation Board approval for the project and is awaiting the Federal Railroad Administration’s decision on a $2.5 billion Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program loan that would fund the PRB project and other trackwork.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/30/2006