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Leaders Ink Deal To Buy SF Rail Yard

Sioux Falls leaders have signed an agreement purchasing rail yard land in the center of town. City officials announced the agreement last month. This week they officially signed the deal to buy land in downtown Sioux Falls.

A bright orange locomotive sits on the tracks behind a stage above gravel in central Sioux Falls. Mayor Mike Huether says it’s a fitting metaphor for a deal that puts 10 acres for former rail yard into city hands.

Credit Kealey Bultena / SDPB
Leaders watch as Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether and BNSF's Roger Nober sign the deal to sell 10 acres of rail yard.

“This BNSF 8065 locomotive behind me, it was built in Erie, Pennsylvania back in February of 2014,” Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether sayas. “It weighs 416,000 pounds with its last assignment transferring cement loads from Pueblo, Colorado to Sioux Falls, SD. It came a long, long way to get here today.”

City leaders are using $27 million in federal money to purchase the land. Former US Senator Tim Johnson helped secure funding for the project.

"As you know, over 10 years has past since then, and during that time a budgetary revision reduced the earmark," Johnson says. "John [Thune] and I worried that full funding might be reclaimed before a deal was reached."

Credit Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Johnson says local leaders refused to give up and found ways to broker the current agreement. US Senator John Thune calls them relentless.

“Ten years is a long time, but you know sometimes good things take a long time to make happen, but I’m glad that we finally reached that finish line,” Thune says.

Thune says city leaders were focused on reaching an agreement. It opens downtown Sioux Falls parcels to public and private development in just two years.

Roger Nober is an executive with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.

“Trying to do a project like this is a lot like renovating an old house in that you never know what you’re going to find and no two are alike, and this is one where over the 10 or 11 years that we’ve been working on this there have been a lot of twists and turns in it all,” Nober says. “And these are very hard to do principally because, as Senator Thune said, we’re a railroad and our job is to move freight. And so the job of the BNSF team whileto work with the community of Sioux Falls was also to ensure that our railroad could continue to serve its customers and continue to grow."

Two lines of BNSF rail remain active through downtown, and the company is building another two in a different part of the city.

Kealey Bultena