Entries Tagged 'Railroads' ↓

Reducing Rail Traffic was part of Munson’s 2005 RR redevelopment plan

There seems to be some detractors when it comes to what I have been saying about reducing the rail traffic downtown after we took possession of the RR redevelopment land. I will apologize on one level where I was wrong. First off, I was unaware that two tracks would remain under Munson’s plan and secondly that this was mostly about the redevelopment. Those two items did not change under Huether’s plan. But Munson did want the rail traffic to reduce, substantially under his 2005 plan;

Sioux Falls Mayor David Munson says, “For any development we want to do moving those tracks is very important.”

Plus, the mayor says moving the tracks is an issue of safety. Traffic wouldn’t be backed up nearly as much anymore. And if a train were to derail while carrying hazardous material, it wouldn’t happen in the center of a growing city.

Munson says, “We’ve seen recently trains that have leaked, they’ve had to evacuate areas so we’re trying to stay ahead of that here.”

Ironically, these hazardous train cars are still parked several days a week next to Nelson Park only hundreds of feet from the Sioux River on the South and a kid’s skate park and swimming pool to the North.

In fact the RR has stated that rail traffic would NOT be reduced under Huether’s plan. They have stated that the trains will become shorter BUT more frequent. They were not kidding. As I have noted they have become a lot more frequent over Cliff Avenue next to Avera Hospital during noon and rush hour times. One of the factors that I can see is instead of using the old switch yard that is gone now, they are re-hooking and switching train cars in the area just North of Avera’s employee/overflow parking lot. They are also parking a lot more train cars in that area.

Also, under Munson’s 2005 plan, Mark Cotter felt that rail traffic and switching would reduce so much they could eventually tear down the 10th street viaduct;

But getting the switching yard moved could dramatically reduce the size of the 10th Street viaduct in years to come. “Twenty-five years down the road, when the viaduct needs to be reconstructed, we can bring in dirt,” Cotter says, because the viaduct no longer would have to span an entire switching yard. “Roads are cheaper to repair than bridges,” Cotter says.

I wonder if that is still the plan to tear down the viaducts in 2030?

As you can see, the original vision did include the redevelopment of the banana land and leaving two RR tracks, BUT it also envisioned reducing rail traffic significantly throughout downtown which apparently was left out of Huether’s plan.


Railyard Photos of the Past (Charles Luden) Part III

Here are photos I shot in 1964 of the downtown Sioux Falls rail yard.  I was in 9th grade at the time.  These were shot with a Kodak Brownie Starflash 127 so the resolution is not real good.  The rail yard was a busy place in those days.  Watching the action was exciting. At this time there was only the 10th street viaduct.  – Charles Luden

Railyard Photos of the Past (Charles Luden) Part II

Here are photos I shot in 1964 of the downtown Sioux Falls rail yard.  I was in 9th grade at the time.  These were shot with a Kodak Brownie Starflash 127 so the resolution is not real good.  The rail yard was a busy place in those days.  Watching the action was exciting. At this time there was only the 10th street viaduct.  – Charles Luden

The Railroad Relocation project does little to relieve downtown rail traffic

While there was probably a lot of fanfare and celebrating giving millions of Federal tax dollars to Warren Buffet today at a press conference (and probably millions more in city tax dollars), the project doesn’t do much in stopping or slowing train traffic downtown. Besides tearing out the old railyard, two train tracks in the same area will remain.

I have also noticed that traffic has increased over Cliff Avenue downtown near Avera hospital. Over the past month I have had to wait for trains to cross during the noon hour twice and once at 5 PM on a Friday Afternoon.

The original idea of the RR relocation project when it was cooked up by former mayor Munson and Tim Johnson was to limit or rid Downtown Sioux Falls of rail traffic and little to do with development.

While the current administration may call the project a huge ‘WIN’ for Sioux Falls, I think by not moving rail traffic from downtown was a huge ‘FAIL’ and an enormous waste of Federal tax dollars. When they talk about ‘Pork’ in DC, these are the kind of projects they are talking about.

Railroad Relocation Discussion

Cameraman Bruce and I hope to film this event as part of Design Week in Sioux Falls. Should be a good discussion. Join us!

The Future of the Railroad Relocation Project


I watched this presentation at the informational meeting yesterday. But I still have concerns. Accept for the fact that we blew $27 million of Federal tax dollars on land we will never recover our cost from and we never moved all the rail traffic from this area it will be interesting to see how they are going to buffer the rail traffic from this area;

• Will it be quiet enough for residential units in the area?

• With the railroad already saying traffic will become more frequent on the remaining tracks, how will you get to the development from the east safely and efficiently?

I have no problem with redeveloping this land, even though I worry about the pollutants left behind, as we should have learned from Phillips to the Falls. But without removing all of the train traffic from this area I feel the project as a whole fails to produce a setting for prime downtown redevelopment.

I was a big supporter of the project when first proposed by Mayor Munson, but once I found out the rail traffic is still going to be chugging through this area (and getting more frequent at other downtown and central parts of Sioux Falls) I’m not sure what we accomplished. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong 10 years down the road, but like Phillips to the Falls, I have my doubts.



HUGE FAIL! $27 million Federal tax dollars and rail traffic in Downtown Sioux Falls will remain almost the same

railyard winter 15

The cold hard truth about the RR relocation project

Yesterday at the informational meeting there was an update on the RR relocation project. And while the switching yard will move outside of town (that is why we are getting ten acres of land) it was confirmed by planning staff that rail traffic will remain ‘almost’ the same.

I guess when the environmental study was done, BNSF explained that while the longer trains will not be switching cars for smaller deliveries downtown anymore with Eastern and Ellis, that those deliveries will still have to be made Downtown. Planning described it as ‘Smaller trains, but more frequent traffic’.

I went to the city council meeting last night, and during public input I expressed my disappointment in how this project has really changed from its original intent, which was to close the switching yard downtown AND reduce rail traffic. In fact, it could get worse with more frequent train traffic.

Not sure where the train went off the tracks with this project (no pun intended) but it seems the feet dragging and delay after Huether took office may have affected the final result. It was no secret that Huether was cock blocking the project so talk of an Events Center downtown could be quelled. The ten acres would have made a perfect spot for a parking lot for a downtown EC. In fact many still burning from the sting of that whole fiasco have argued that is all that property is good for, besides a public park. As I expressed last night, you won’t be able to build residential, and retail may be questionable also. Besides the noise of the more frequent trains running along the development land, the close proximity to the river could flood the Southern edge of the development. There has been talk about making the area a ‘quiet zone’ which requires crossbars on the street, but as I have understood Federal law on that, there will still have to be some kind of (audio) warning system in place. And even if the whistles are NOT blowing the rattle and clank of trains is loud enough.

Of course all of my whining really is coming to late. Our media really failed pointing out the reality of this project, the only journalist willing to say anything in agreement with me is Johnathan Ellis, and he gets chided for it.

This project is a HUGE FAIL for Federal Tax payers, a HUGE FAIL for downtown commuters and soon it will become a HUGE FAIL for local tax payers once we will be all standing around holding the bag for a piece of property we paid $27 million for that at most, probably will sell for around $4-5 million, AFTER we clean it up.

This is prime example of how pathetic government can really be with our money.


Saturday Odds & Ends


• I found this picture on the Googles of Hattie Phillips home that used to sit on the top of Terrace Park until the city goons tore it down. As I understand it is the ONLY known existing photo of the residence. Hattie’s husband, Dr. Phillips founded Sioux Falls with RF Pettigrew.

• During the Sioux Falls city council informational meeting this next Tuesday, we will get an update on the RR relocation project, but don’t expect to hear any updates on rail traffic (DOC: RR-Yard )


• This is a nifty photo of where the Parks Department has it’s picnic table graveyard, Terrace Park.

• Here’s an interesting story about limiting or even eliminating public input;

A spate of recent outbursts and contentious exchanges has prompted the leader of the Oklahoma City School Board to consider eliminating public participation at meetings, The Oklahoman has learned.

Board Chairwoman Lynne Hardin said Thursday she also is considering whether to eliminate board member comment and plans to meet with the panel next month to discuss both options.

“To be squabbling over things that don’t add to the meeting, it’s not an effective use of our time,” she said.

The board’s next regular meeting is June 27. Hardin said she will consider whether to suspend both comment periods for that meeting, typically the longest of the year.

“If there’s ever a time not to get rid of public comment it’s right now because of what’s happened with charters, with (former Superintendent Rob) Neu,” said parent John Prough, a regular at board meetings. “This is a time where attendance is up and community involvement is up. They’re involved, and they want their voices heard.”

• The Sioux Falls city council is considering giving Forward Sioux Falls $400K (Item #56) for workforce development. Sometimes I think these programs are so dismal, it may be more effective just to give a group of people who are under employed the money instead.

I will leave you with a cool video from 1894.


According to Edison film historian C. Musser, this film and others shot on the same day (see also Sioux ghost dance) featured Native American Indian dancers from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, and constitutes the American Indian’s first appearance before a motion picture camera.

United States : Edison Manufacturing Co., [1894]

Copyright: no reg.

Performers: Last Horse, Parts His Hair, Hair Coat.

Camera, William Heise.

Filmed September 24, 1894, in Edison’s Black Maria studio.

Sources used: Copyright catalog, motion pictures, 1894-1912; Musser, C. Edison motion pictures 1890-1900, 1997, p. 126.

Received: 5-13-1994; viewing print; preservation; Hendricks (Gordon) Collection.

Does BNSF owe us an explanation?


While there has been a lot of talk about what kind of development that is being done on the old rail yard, there has been very little talk about how rail traffic will proceed once the project is turned over to developers.

We know 3 things for certain;

• Two tracks will remain in the same place DT next to the BNSF building that will also remain. A fence will be built between the line and property that will be developed.

• All the old staging area will not be used anymore (that’s the new development land).

• Two siding tracks are being built out of town.

What we don’t know is how much traffic will remain DT, will it be more or less, or will it get spread around over to Cliff Avenue? I think within a year the city and BNSF need to supply the citizens of Sioux Falls a ‘rail plan’ DT and just what traffic will look like and projected volumes.

A developer recently told me ‘I was wrong’ when it came to the rail traffic DT increasing after the rail yard closes. So prove me wrong, call up your BFF, Mayor Mike, and ask him to present a rail traffic plan to those who live and work DT. If the rail traffic becomes minimal, than it will truly be exciting.

Another consultant, the RR relocation project burn barrel just got bigger

Here we go, seems no one in city government is smart enough to know what to do with 10 acres of undeveloped land downtown, even though developers and the city have been successfully developing projects downtown for over 100 years now;

“The City is hiring a consultant to work with us to ensure the redevelopment of this land is done in the best way possible,” says Mike Cooper, Director of Planning and Building Services. “Most cities never have this type of opportunity—to reshape the heart of their downtown—so we want to make sure we get it right.”

I’ve said the best way to develop the land would be to let free enterprise shape it. Once BNSF hands over the keys to the property in 2017, we drive down to ACE hardware and pick up a couple of FOR SALE signs and stick them in the ground.

Why should the taxpayers be on the hook for even more expenditures cleaning up the site, and coming up with proposals. Wasn’t the $27 million of Federal tax dollars enough? Especially since the tracks and traffic are really going NO WHERE. What kind of grand development ideas is the consultant going to have? You can’t build residential because the trains will still be rolling through, maybe even more often.

This sounds like another back door scam so that certain developers get their hands on the land by shaping the RFP’s in advance to fit their already conceived ideas. I say put it for sale, let the adjacent property owners have first dibs, and if they decline open it up to other developers. We aren’t building a resort in the Cayman Islands, we are taking a brown field, scraping the top layer off and making it available for someone to build on. This isn’t rocket science and certainly not worth the expense of a consultant.

I still maintain that since we did nothing to limit the traffic of trains downtown by moving forward on this project, we have accomplished nothing but blowing $27 million dollars as BNSF walks away with a gigantic smile on their face. You’re welcome Mr. Buffet.