Kalispell Falls Short Again in Hunt for TIGER Grant

Core area redevelopment plan misses out on nearly $10 million in federal funding

By Dillon Tabish
Train tracks are seen on the north side of Depot Park in downtown Kalispell. The city is looking at the future development of Kalispell’s corridor which could include replacing the tracks with a pedestrian walkway. - Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon

Flathead County and the City of Kalispell missed out once again on a prominent federal transportation grant that would have sped up redevelopment in the city’s core area.

The U.S. Transportation Department notified local community leaders last week that they would not be receiving funds through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the projects across the country that are being awarded a combined $600 million, and a total of 72 transportation plans in 46 states were successful among 797 community applications. TIGER grants are competitively awarded annually.

“This was just one option for funding the rail park and redevelopment plan and we will continue to work on solving that puzzle piece, which is the financing,” said Katharine Thompson, community development manager for Kalispell. “We lost the battle but we didn’t lose the war.”

A single planning grant was awarded to an in-state project this year, and the winning application was a commercial and residential redevelopment project at a former airport site in Poplar on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. The project grant is worth $692,829. No construction grants were funded in Montana this year.

“We’re very disappointed,” said Kellie Danielson, CEO and president of Flathead County Economic Development Authority and Montana West Economic Development, the organizations helping lead the creation of a planned 40-acre industrial rail site between Whitefish Stage Road and U.S. Highway 2.

City officials, working with FCEDA and MWED staff and board members, applied earlier this year for $9.9 million in grant funding to help spur Kalispell’s Core Area Redevelopment Plan, which includes the creation of a rail yard and removing railroad tracks in downtown. The primary phase of the plan is estimated to cost roughly $22 million.

Kalispell has now fallen short in its bid two years in a row. Thompson said the groups would likely reapply for next year’s TIGER grant while looking at other options in the meantime. Danielson said the FCEDA board would convene and look at an alternative path forward.

“(The TIGER grant) would’ve accelerated the rail park development. We’ll be meeting with our board in the next week or two to determine a course of action going forward,” Danielson said. “We’ll bring a financial consultant in and talk about Plan B.”

Gaining federal funding would have led to the rail yard being developed within three years, Danielson said, and achieving that timeline now appears difficult.

“It’s a difficult and very complex project,” she said. “It can be done but it will take considerable time.”

Thompson said local officials worked very hard at improving this latest TIGER application. Although they fell short, everyone involved will continue to work hard to progress the core area plan, she said.

“We’re in this for the long haul,” she said. “We will keep charging forward.”

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