Kalispell Rail Trail Design to Begin in Earnest This Spring

Alta Planning officials say they are excited to meet with stakeholders

By Justin Franz
A Mission Mountain Railroad freight train goes through downtown Kalispell on Dec. 27, 2017. Justin Franz | Flathead Beacon

After years of preparation and planning, the work of designing a new rail trail through downtown Kalispell is slated to begin this spring.

Earlier this month, the Kalispell City Council selected Alta Planning and Design and KLJ Engineers to design and construct a new rail trail that will replace the former Great Northern Railway tracks through town.

The trail will stretch from Woodland Park west to Meridian Road along the former Great Northern Railway right-of-way. The owner of the tracks, BNSF Railway, has filed to abandon the rails through town, and trains will stop running into Kalispell once the new Glacier Rail Park is completed east of town off Whitefish Stage Road.

Joe Gilpin, a principal with Alta based in Bozeman, said his company is looking forward to working with the city and stakeholders along the proposed trail. Gilpin said Alta has more than 30 offices across the country and has done numerous rail trail projects across the country.

“We’re really excited about this project, and we think it’s going to be a fun one,” he said.

Gilpin said the design team hopes to meet with residents and businesses in early summer to gather input. He said he thinks the trail should be both useful and educational, building on the history of the town and the railroad itself that was built in 1892.   

Removal of the old railroad, engineering and construction of the new trail and the rebuilding of a number of cross-streets through the core area is expected to cost approximately $4 million.

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