KALISPELL - The next step in revitalizing the Kalispell downtown is underway as the first phase of the new Glacier Rail Park has broken ground as part of the larger Kalispell Core Area Project.
Tuesday’s work is just the beginning of a five-year plan to remove the old rail tracks from downtown and make the area more pedestrian-friendly.
“This is truly a transformative moment, this is the moment in history 50 years from now we’re going to look back and realize that the pain and sacrifice we made was well worth the effort,” said Kalispell Mayor Mark Johnson.
The city celebrated the start of the plans to lay down new train tracks in the Glacier Rail Park that will replace the old tracks running through downtown.
Not only did they have a ceremony, but they actually broke ground with Sen. Jon Tester and Mayor Johnson driving the tractors where the new rail tracks will be laid.
Sen. Tester, along with many other speakers talked about how big of a deal this truly is for the cities future development.
“A lot of times we go to these ground-breaking ceremonies and it’s made out to be bigger than it actually is, this one’s going to be bigger than we think,” Sen. Tester said.
The project is being paid for by a $10 million TIGER grant that the city received after its third attempt.
“It’s not easy to get money out of Washington D.C. the folks that stuck to it and got it done and they need to be applauded for their efforts,” Sen. Tester said.
According to the City of Kalispell and the Flathead Valley Economic Development Authority, the overall project is expected to bring over $38 million in public and private investment to the community over the next few years -- along with 80 to 100 new jobs at the rail park alone.
“The economic activity that’s going to happen right here in this park and the long-term impact it’s going to have on the economy here in Kalispell just going to be incredible,” Sen. Tester said. “And that’s not even talking about the advances that are going to be made downtown which is going to really change the look of the city.”
Sen. Tester doesn’t just believe it is good for Kalispell, but the state as a whole.
“I think from a jobs perspective whether you are talking downtown or whether you’re talking out here in this rail park it’s good news, not only for Kalispell but for northwest Montana and actually if you want to know the truth it’s good news for Montana,” Sen. Tester said.
The old train tracks in downtown will be removed and replaced by two miles of pedestrian trails by 2019.
Click here for more information about the project.