The recent news of a young boy having his feet severed while playing near a moving train in St. Paul sent a shudder through one Lakeville neighborhood. For more than four years, residents there have tried to remove empty railcars parked near their homes.
“We see a lot of kids playing around and climbing on top of the trains,” said Pam Steinhagen, a resident who has helped organize efforts to get them moved. No one has been hurt, but the situation — especially when railcars are moved in and out of the area — “is very scary,” she said.
Progressive Rail, which did not respond to interview requests, has previously said the railcars are not in use because of the slow economy. The Lakeville firm doesn’t own the cars but handles them for other companies on tracks it leases from Canadian Pacific Railway.
Progressive Rail has put up “no trespassing” signs, but Steinhagen said they have been ineffective. Thirteen trespassing incidents have been reported to the Lakeville Police since June, but no one has been caught.
Steinhagen and other residents say the railcars also are an eyesore that have hurt their property values. Since 2010, land values for homes near the tracks have been reduced by 5 percent to take into account the “adverse locational factor,” according to Dakota County Assessor Bill Peterson.
City Administrator Steve Mielke said Lakeville can’t order the company to remove the cars because federal law permits them to be there. He said residents who call to complain are told the company wants them to notify the police.
Mielke, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Republican Rep. John Kline have met with company officials to discuss the problem. “Not much has changed,” Mielke said.
Last summer, Klobuchar and Kline asked federal authorities to help resolve the dispute. No solutions have come yet, but Troy Young, a spokesman for Kline, said this week the congressman “continues to … explore a variety of possible solutions that may include a legislative option.”