Senator John Thune
Life in South Dakota’s wide open spaces means the nearest hospital or airport can be many miles away. It also means that adequate funding and sound infrastructure are critical to maintaining roads, bridges, railroads, and airports throughout our state. The stability provided by long-term federal transportation policy gives states and localities the tools they need to prioritize targeted transportation investments. Maintaining a national transportation system keeps roads safe for South Dakota families and ensures efficient movement of the commercial vehicles vital to a host of South Dakota industries.
This past week, I was pleased to host U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in South Dakota to discuss a variety of transportation issues. We spent the day highlighting transportation priorities in South Dakota and the importance of an efficient transportation system. We started the morning in Rapid City where Secretary Foxx, Governor Daugaard, and I participated in a roundtable meeting with a number of South Dakotans to discuss the importance of transportation and the impact it has on South Dakota’s and the nation’s economy, particularly as it relates to the state’s largest industry, agriculture. As we have witnessed since late last year, the inability of shippers and ag producers to secure rail cars and locomotives to get their products to market in a timely manner has a significant impact on our state.
We also made a stop in Chamberlain to show the secretary steps the state of South Dakota is taking to improve the state-owned rail line, providing ag producers and other shippers with expanded options to getting their grain to market. This portion of the secretary’s tour underscored the positive impact federal investment combined with state and local funding has on infrastructure and economic development.
In addition to the rail discussions, we organized a briefing for Secretary Foxx with officials at Ellsworth Air Force Base. The briefing was an opportunity to underscore how the pending proposal to expand the nearby Powder River training range is critical not only for our military servicemen and women but for our nation’s long-term safety and security. Secretary Foxx oversees the FAA which is currently reviewing this training expansion proposal.
Maintaining a sound and efficient transportation network in large, landmass states like South Dakota with a relatively small population is important to stimulating economic development. While we still need to make investments to maintain the thousands of miles of roads, bridges, and highways our state’s residents depend upon, Secretary Foxx left South Dakota with a better understanding of our state’s unique transportation challenges and the key role South Dakota plays in the national transportation system.With my role as the next chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which has direct oversight of the U.S. Department of Transportation, I look forward to working with Secretary Foxx and others to ensure that South Dakota’s transportation needs are not overlooked.