FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Britni Eisenmann was consulting for the city of New Haven when she stumbled on a much larger issue.
“Earlier this summer my consultancy met with New Haven’s Mayor Steve McMichael on an unrelated issue,” Eisenmann said. “In that conversation, he questioned the impact of blocked railroads on his town’s ability to grow.
The Fort Wayne resident learned that railroad crossings impact safety and growth in a much larger way than previously thought, and it caused her to start a non-profit that has started to gain some steam.
“We founded Railtowns United to make America’s rail town from coast to coast safe, accessible and prosperous,” Eisenmann, the co-executive director said. “We are starting to gain members coast to coast.”
The organization seeks to unite towns and cities built along railroad lines, or “railtowns,” so that needs can be understood, but also so that the organization can help solve those problems.
“When I can’t get ahold of someone at the railroad and I have someone that can help me get things accomplished, like helping me get a train that is blocking my crossing for 12 hours get removed, then we are solving challenges,” Eisenmann said.
The organization isn’t “anti-railroad,” but it looks to find solutions that benefit both sides of the tracks.
“We are going to invite railroad to the table in good faith, we would like to avoid having to change legislation,” Eisenmann said. “Railroad is not the bad guy, Their operations in the last decade or so have been less focused on helping the communities that host their rail and we’d like to even out the odds a little bit there.
Although the organization is young, being founded this year, it’s already gaining steam and has recommendations from people like Post 3 At-Large Atlanta City Council member Keisha Sean Waites.
“If you go back, the very first railroad charter was granted in 1815. As far as we can tell, in the 208 years since then there has never been a coordinated group of rail-connected communities,” said Railtowns United Chief Strategist Tate Linden in a town hall the organization hosted.
In part, a statement from Waites reads, “Atlanta, as one of the largest rail towns in the country, recognizes the importance of Railtowns United. If they succeed, we all succeed.”
“It has become evident that there is a need for effective interactions between communities and railroads. Thousands of cities and towns nationwide have grappled with these challenges in isolation, often with limited success. We must do better – that comes from working together, sharing best practices, and speaking with a unified voice about the issues that matter. Atlanta, as one of the largest rail towns in the country, recognizes the importance of Railtowns United. If they succeed, we all succeed. The town hall was a meaningful step towards safer, more thriving rail-connected communities. Atlanta’s commitment is unwavering, and I urge fellow leaders to join us in building a viable future for all our towns.”Post 3 At-Large Atlanta City Council member Keisha Sean Waites
Right now the organization is offering memberships to municipalities, with costs based on their size, and while they are just getting started with each joining member they are excited about what the future may hold.
“They are interested in having us on their side, they are interested in partnering with the towns that are beside them to help solve some of these issues,” Eisenmann said.