Flathead County fell short in its bid for a federal transportation grant that would have propelled the development of a new industrial rail park.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced this week the 52 projects across the nation that are being awarded Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants.
The planned 90-acre industrial site between Whitefish Stage Road and U.S. Highway 2 did not make the cut. Instead, a seven-mile bicycle trail connecting Missoula and Lolo was deemed Montana’s top applicant to receive TIGER funding.
The Department of Transportation is awarding $4.58 million to Missoula County for the proposed bike path, paying nearly the entire cost of the $5.48 million project. The route will connect two bicycle trail networks that currently can only be traversed by on-highway travel.
DOT explained the reasoning behind its decision by highlighting the project’s improvements in safety and transportation for children, seniors and the overall community, and the path’s role in bolstering the long-distance bicycle touring industry, “an important economic driver in Missoula.”
“The project will enhance accessibility and encourage broader use of travel options by completing the missing seven-mile link to a larger trail of over 50 miles in length,” DOT wrote in its award summary.
In the past 20 years, there have been at least three fatalities and nine injuries as a result of vehicle collisions involving bicycles and pedestrians on the seven-mile segment outside Missoula, according to the DOT.
The Flathead County Economic Development Authority and the City of Kalispell partnered together and applied for the federal funding in the spring, hoping to receive a financial boost for a project that could attract new business to the valley and clear the way to redevelop Kalispell’s industrial core.
FCEDA officials said if the project won the TIGER award, construction could begin in the spring of 2014. The entire rail park could be completed within three years. Without the federal funding, full development is likely to extend further into the future.
DOT is dolling out $474 million worth of TIGER grants this year. Among the projects being funded, 25 are in rural areas of the U.S.
“These transformational TIGER projects are the best argument for investment in our transportation infrastructure,” Foxx said in his announcement about the 2013 TIGER awards.
“Together, they support President Obama’s call to ensure a stronger transportation system for future generations by repairing existing infrastructure, connecting people to new jobs and opportunities, and contributing to our nation’s economic growth.”
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