AP NEWS

South Dakota officials review Dakota Southern track defects

November 4, 2018

MITCHELL, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota officials have expressed concern about defects on the railroad operated by Dakota Southern Railway Company.

A South Dakota legislative committee recently discussed an August inspection report conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration, which found that 37 defects remain on the track. The administration conducted the inspection to check whether Dakota Southern had fixed 233 defects identified in May, The Daily Republic reported .

Darin Bergquist, secretary of the state’s Transportation Department, said he’s still concerned about the number of defects, despite the railway company significantly reducing the number of issues. Bergquist said he’s unsure if the 37 current defects are new or part of an unfixed remainder from the 233 identified earlier this year.

“Personally, I struggle a little bit with this, and I somewhat equate it to highway fatalities. We don’t want any highway fatalities, but unfortunately, they occur,” Bergquist said. “And we would prefer not to have any defects on any of our lines that would be identified by FRA, but I think that might be a hope and not a reality.”

Dakota Southern President Mike Williams said the railway is being unfairly targeted. He said all of the issues raised are expected in the railroad business.

“It doesn’t matter what we say or do in South Dakota. We always end up with the blunt end of the stick, and it’s really sickening to be a business like us and to do what we’ve done, to spend millions on the railroad, and we just get blasted for everything that’s just normal course of business,” Williams said.

The Government and Operations Audit Committee’s recent review of the inspection report was informational.

The track is owned by the state and leased to MRC Regional Railroad Authority, which has subleased the railroad to Dakota Southern since 2012. Dakota Southern is responsible for operating and maintaining the rail.

Bergquist and the committee don’t have any immediate plans to take action against the railroad.

Bergquist said the South Dakota Rail Board, the authority that oversees the sublease, will review the August inspection report on Nov. 14. The Rail Board will then discuss if any action should be taken.

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Information from: The Daily Republic, http://www.mitchellrepublic.com

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