Residents want feds to crack down on railroadThe town of Parkland is standing behind efforts to solve a problem that leaves residents on Findlay Road and Caterpillar Train with no safe means of escape when trains block the only route leading from their homes.
By: Shelley Nelson, The Daily Telegram
The town of Parkland is standing behind efforts to solve a problem that leaves residents on Findlay Road and Caterpillar Train with no safe means of escape when trains block the only route leading from their homes.
Canadian National trains running through the area have blocked the only crossing that leads to and from the rural neighborhood for hours at a time when a train stalls trying to climb the grade at Sam Anderson Hill without sufficient power for its loads.
“Everyone’s been stopped by a train on occasion,” said Bill Anderson of Caterpillar Trail. “But we have kind of a unique situation on the Findlay and Caterpillar Trail because we don’t have an alternative route to get out in case of emergency.”
Residents met with CN spokesman Kevin Soucie,who said he made no commitment beyond taking the issue back to other company officials. Last week, he said the matter is under internal review.
“We’re asking for the town’s support,” Anderson said. He and other residents of the rural neighborhood came together Monday to ask the board for its support to contact state and federal elected officials in search of an answer or federal regulations that would prohibit lengthy road blockages.
Board members Nathan Johnstad, Chad Sisko and Bill Hesselgrave said they would be willing to write letters to officials in an effort to find a solution to a problem that is getting worse with time.
“I agree those trains shouldn’t be sitting on those crossings the way that they are, and I’ve seen it too, sitting at my house,” Johnstad said.
The situation has grown more severe in recent times, with trains blocking the crossing for three hours and more, he said.
“When Chicago Northwestern had the tracks, I definitely remember not even remotely having a problem of this sort,” said Joyce Bickford, who has lived in the area 31 years. “We would call Itasca. We knew the people in Itasca. They had a different system. They had cabooses at the time. They didn’t have as long of a train. It would be — tops — a half-hour. When they had the cabooses, they could break the train. They had the common courtesy.”
Federal regulation requires a conductor or brakeman at the end of the train to blow whistles and clear crossings for safety reasons when a train is moving in a any direction. Without a caboose, neither is readily available for the task
“It’s not just the Parkland people,” said Joyce Bickford, who said she’s heard from people facing similar problems in the city of Superior.
Anderson said residents have asked for an evacuation plan and for the railroad to build a frontage road that would allow them to reach a place where they could leave if a train is stuck on the tracks for hours at a time. He said the road is something for which local taxpayers shouldn’t bear the cost burden.
“They can build a road … and turn it over to the town; we’ll maintain it,” Johnstad said. The town receives gas tax proceeds, so the burden wouldn’t fall on local taxpayers, he said.
“It’s not just blocking the tracks, which is an inconvenience,” said Douglas County Supervisor Sue Hendrickson, who represents Parkland. “It’s a safety issue and that pushes it up to the federal level.”
Unfortunately for residents, the Federal Railroad Administration doesn’t regulate the length of time a train can block a crossing, and the courts haven’t ruled decisively about whether federal regulations pre-empt state law on the issue.
“I would like to see this become a federal law,” Anderson said.
Contact Shelley Nelson at (715) 395-5022 or email@example.com