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Britton grain terminal construction, state-owned Britton Line track upgrades moving forward

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SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota — Millions of dollars of rail line upgrades to the state-owned Britton Line in northeastern South Dakota and construction of a grain terminal near Britton are moving forward, leaders involved with the projects said Wednesday.

The state Department of Transportation and Dakota, Missouri Valley and Western Railroad are weighing materials suppliers for part of the roughly $9 million in upgrades to the line. Work on the roughly $32 million Britton Grain Terminal broke ground earlier in April after some drainage issues, and the facility is expected to open in September 2016, said Philip Deal, president of Britton Grain Terminal, LLC.

South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard had previously announced the rail upgrades and new grain elevator in December 2014 as part of more than $50 million in public and private money for rail improvements.

The rail construction includes an upgrade at Jarrett Junction and improvements to about 30 miles of track over the roughly 77-mile line between Geneseo Junction in North Dakota and Aberdeen, South Dakota, said Bruce Lindholm, of the department's Office of Air, Rail and Transit.

Nathan Sanderson, director of policy and operations for the governor, said in an email that the new Britton elevator is an example of the benefits that building up the state's rail infrastructure can bring.

"This grain terminal should offer farmers greater access to markets, while improving shipping times and reducing freight charges," Sanderson said. "The investments we make in rail infrastructure today will have a positive impact on South Dakota's economy and benefit our agriculture producers for decades to come."

Lindholm told the state Railroad Board last month that the planned Britton Line upgrades were paused because of uncertainty around the grain terminal caused by the drainage issues. Deal said the project is now underway.

The facility is expected be able to store nearly 5 million bushels of grain and load 80,000 bushels per hour into 120-car shuttle trains.

Deal said he had been working on the project since 2010 and it's exciting to "finally get going."

"We had to work through a lot of hurdles to get here," he said.

Jeff Wood, president of Dakota, Missouri Valley and Western Railroad, said the rail upgrades and the new elevator will help farmers in the region save money.

"For northeast South Dakota, it's a great opportunity; for southeast North Dakota, as well," Wood said. "We're excited to be part of it."

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