PHOTO: A basketball hoop hung from a tree near the rail cars stored on tracks behind Pam Steinhagen's backyard (Star Tribune, January 21, 2016)
Words of Warning from Progressive Rail’s Hometown
Dear Santa Cruz County,
I am writing to you from Lakeville, MN. Our city had the opportunity to turn a rail corridor into a greenway many years ago. If only we had gone that route we would be enjoying the corridor rather than policing it. You can Google my name and Progressive Rail and read many stories about how this company operates in our community which happens to be their hometown.
Progressive Rail has been storing rail cars on that rail that could have been a marvelous greenway for almost a decade now. It started with ethanol tankers many years ago. We had to question the hazardous material to get them moved out and magically the city invested in a fire vehicle that could deal with ethanol fires. Since then, we have had open rail cars that PR would not close, secure, or lock shut (which we police each summer as they have brought crime, drugs, partying etc.) and lower open-top rail cars that hold water and are a breeding ground for mosquitos (which we have addressed by spraying each summer).
The tracks themselves are in poor condition. The cars are stored on a main thoroughfare through the heart of our city with offensive graffiti on them more often than not. Progressive Rail moves them without warning, sometimes right when the nearby middle school lets out, knowing full well that kids climb under the trains to get home. When moving trains, they have blocked the entrance to our neighborhood repeatedly, sometimes for more than 45 minutes. We are a one-way-in and one-way-out division of homes.
Kids run across the tops of these trains, sunbath on them near the lake, party in them, take senior photos etc. It is a disaster waiting to happen. “No Trespassing” signs are not enough to prevent this type of activity when rail cars sit for months behind our homes. Some of the open cars have no ladders on the inside for escape in case someone falls inside.
We have gone to the city, police, newspapers, media, our representatives, and Facebook to make noise. That seems to be the only way to get their attention. When we directly address owner Dave Fellon and others at Progressive Rail they are not friendly and tell us to watch our children more carefully, that they have a right to park these cars despite the safety risk and general blight on this community.
And there are railroad trolls who are out there to say gross things to all that disagree with PR practices. It literally looks like a graveyard for rail cars when they are all lined up on the tracks. If we as community members stored some of the trashy cars they do, we would be cited. Dave Fellon has said from the beginning that he will move the cars out as soon as the economy improves, well it’s been over nine years and we still have parked rail cars in our backyards.
The laws governing these rail companies are from the 1800’s and have not been updated to protect residential communities that have grown up around them. The city has no jurisdiction because railroad operators are federally protected and are virtually above the law. The rail companies make large contributions to political parties to keep this circle intact. We have had to look up regulations we see something off in an effort to hold them accountable.
Be very careful of what kind of business you enter into with Progressive Rail. Once everything is signed on the dotted line with them, they will do whatever, they want whenever they want with no regard for the community they claim to be a great neighbor too!
This is just my two cents from the Midwest, but please do your homework listen to people who have had to deal with Progressive Rail first hand to be sure you understand how they do business. Make no mistake Progressive Rail’s only priority is to make a profit and your community is at risk. They have little regard for community safety and fighting a railroad is an uphill battle!
Pam Steinhagen runs a daycare that backs up to the train tracks. She has been a vocal community advocate speaking out about safety concerns caused by “out of use” cars that Progressive Rail has been storing for 9+ years just outside residents’ backyards.
Read more about Progressive Rail's operations in Lakeville, MN:
“Line of Unused Rail Cars Languishes in Lakeville Backyards.” The Washington Times, The Washington Times, 21 Jan. 2016, www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jan/21/line-of-unused-rail-cars-languishes-in-lakeville-b/.
McCardle, Ellery. “Lakeville Neighborhood Fights to Get Railcars Out.” KARE, 5 Mar. 2017, www.kare11.com/article/news/lakeville-neighborhood-fights-to-get-railcars-out/89-419871985.
Nelson, Emma. “After 7 Years, Lakeville Residents Fight Rail Storage in Backyards.” Star Tribune, Star Tribune, 21 Jan. 2016, www.startribune.com/after-seven-years-lakeville-neighbors-are-still-fighting-railroad-storage-in-their-backyards/366006451/#1.
Shenoy, Rupa. “Parked Rail Cars an Unwelcome Neighbor in Lakeville.” Minnesota Public Radio News, 16 Dec. 2009, www.mprnews.org/story/2009/12/15/parked-rail-cars.
Sias, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth Sias / Pioneer Press. “Lakeville Neighbors Want Empty Railcars Moved.” Twin Cities, Twin Cities, 12 Nov. 2015, www.twincities.com/2009/11/10/lakeville-neighbors-want-empty-railcars-moved/.