Progressive Rail Petitioning to Close Local Road to Further Their Frac Sand Business

PHOTO: A Progressive Rail train being loaded with frac sand in Wisconsin's Chippewa Valley

Progressive Rail Petitioning to Close Local Road to Further Their Frac Sand Business

Dear Santa Cruz County,

I understand you are looking for alternatives to gridlock traffic. However, before you sign with Progressive Rail please consider the traffic delays and potential safety, health, environmental, and quality of life concerns that may result from expanding freight rail industry in your county. You should also note, that Progressive Rail understands how to use federal preemption to expand their rail territory and increase their profits. 

Progressive Rail has played a role in expanding the frac sand industry in Chippewa Falls, WI. I have been actively working to protect community safety, health, and the environment as a result of this industry for nearly a decade. 

Most recently, they have petitioned to close Town Road 95 in the Town of Eagle Point, WI—a road locals have used for decade upon decade if not a century or more—to expand their business by laying train tracks that would allow them to assemble 80- to 100-unit trains. Unit trains, which often consist of 140 cars or more, are long trains that carry a single commodity. The longer the train, the greater the profit to the rail operator. 

Town Road 95 is used for local travel; the delivery of local services and goods from local businesses; an alternative route for medical, safety, and emergency vehicles when other roads are blocked off to vehicular traffic; and a local route for biking and walking. It also provides entry to agricultural lands and residences in the area.

The rail industry is inhibiting residents' ability to travel freely in their own county. I have witnessed crossing gates down with no train passing through and long lines of vehicles waiting to cross. Train delays can cause residents to arrive late to school, medical appointments, or work. Engine failure can cause delays lasting several hours followed by a train that moves unexpectedly jeopardizing the safety and welfare of the people who frequent those crossings. 

In addition to inhibiting local travel and emergency vehicle access, using this corridor to assemble unit trains will result in extreme noise as 80-100 cars are staged or uncoupled and harmful diesel particulates will be released as cars are moved.

Local property values will decline and residents may need to deal with drainage of chemicals including creosote and other contaminants from railroad ties into nearby groundwater. Rail cars carrying frac sand also leak particulates and respirable crystalline silica dust which is carcinogenic and can be dispersed into the air as cars pass over piles of silica left by previous cars.

In the past, Progressive has run uncovered trains piled high with silica dust that spilled all over tracks and escaped into the air and surrounding areas and then refused to clean up the resulting mess. They have been known for idling engines throughout the day and night in residential areas. A dramatic increase in freight train traffic is harming many people's quality of life and the silica dust and diesel fumes may be damaging people's health.

Safety is already a very large concern in several areas where there are crossings and the lack of adequate safety lights, warnings, and appropriate signage. Other community members have testified to witnessing emergency vehicles delayed by unit train assembly.

When the spurs are no longer needed by Progressive or when the industry they serve has taken a slump, will the road be restored and put back into use? Will the closure of the road allow for an even larger rail yard expansion? One more encroachment will just lead to another and our county needs no more encroachments in the area of heavy industry!

At the moment, some people are grateful for jobs and a few are profiting along with Progressive. However, I'll bet we will all miss our beautiful landscape when the oil and gas fracking industries decline and the jobs disappear. 

I hope you learn from what is happening in the Chippewa Valley and think twice about inviting Progressive Rail to build their business in your beautiful bay area. 


Patricia Popple
Chippewa Falls, WI

Patricia Popple, a retired school teacher and administrator, has been involved in resisting the active advancement of frac sand mining, processing, and trans-loading in the Chippewa Valley and beyond for nearly a decade. She has witnessed safety, health, and the environmental concerns stemming from Progressive Rail's efforts to expand its frac sand business in and around her community.


Read more about Progressive Rail's operations in chippewa Falls, wi:

Berge, Clint. “Town of Eagle Point and Progressive Rail Butt Heads over the Future of a Popular Road.” Home - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports, 7 Dec. 2017,

Chase, Taylor. “As Rail Moves Frac Sand across the Wisconsin Landscape, New Conflicts Emerge.”, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, 14 July 2014,

Seifert, Sarah. “Eagle Point Community Has Firm Consensus against Railroad Petition.” Chippewa Herald, 6 Apr. 2018,

Vetter, Chris. “Objections Raised to Closing Road for Trains.” Leader-Telegram, 6 Apr. 2018,