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Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad (RCP&E) leaders recently joined state and local officials in Huron, South Dakota, to ceremoniously mark an upcoming mainline upgrade project.The $12.4 million project calls for building a 7,000-foot siding in Philip halfway between Fort Pierre and Rapid City, and upgrading 10 miles of mainline track east of Huron.The mainline work involves replacing 100-pound jointed rail produced between 1920 and 1930 with new 115-pound continuous-welded rail, and installing 7,550 new ties. The upgraded track will enable RCP&E to increase train speed on the 10-mile section from 10 mph to 40 mph, making the segment more consistent with the speeds maintained on the balance of the regional's mainline between Huron and Tracy, Minnesota.Meanwhile, the new siding will address very limited mainline capacity and allow two large trains to pass on the line. RCP&E has a crew base in Philip, so the siding will help maximize the potential to run more trains west of Fort Pierre. The project will enable the railroad to operate up to 100 additional trains per year over the mainline section as future demand warrants.
The two projects will be funded by a $6 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery VII grant, $2 million state grant and $4.4 million provided by the RCP&E.
Although the ceremonial "spike pulling" event was held where the rail will be replaced in Huron, work isn't yet underway on either portion of the project, said Michael Williams, a spokesman for RCP&E owner Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (G&W), in an email. The timing on construction is still being finalized as agreements are being executed, he said.Formed by G&W in 2014 after the company acquired lines from Canadian Pacific, the RCP&E operates 651 miles of track in South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wyoming. The regional interchanges with CP, BNSF Railway Co. and Union Pacific Railroad.