Port of Kalama plans transportation center

$200K grant from WSDOT helps fund project

Lewis and Clark traveled the area by water, rail helped create communities and roads grew business and industry here. Today, multiple modes of transportation are relied upon to ensure the economic vitality of the region. As one of the few places the Columbia River Shipping Channel, Mainline Rail and Interstate 5 come together, the Port of Kalama plans to recognize the importance of transportation with an interpretive center.

"It’s about our history and it’s about what we are today and how we are going to succeed in the future," said Port of Kalama Planning Manager Mark Wilson.

Kalama was founded as a community by the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1870, where Northern Pacific began construction of the western terminus of the transcontinental line a year later.

The building set aside to house the interpretive center sits on property purchased by the port almost 40 years ago with land and water preservation trust funds, which required it be used for open space/recreation. With the need to either remove the building or create something to draw the public to the area, the idea for an interpretive center focused on transportation surfaced. The center will be housed in 3,600 square feet of a 7,200-square-foot building formerly occupied by Pyramid Breweries. The remaining portion could house a complementary business, such as a restaurant, said Wilson.

The interpretive center is one of the actions identified by the Kalama Community Action plan to help businesses, residents and tourism thrive in the city while maintaining the historic look and feel of downtown.

"We wanted to create reasons for people to spend time in the community," said Wilson.

The building is located on the waterfront between the port’s marina and public park.

The interpretive center is being made possible by a $200,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Transportation. The port was one of four applicants to receive grant money for projects tied to transportation. The port will also contribute $25,000.

Wilson hopes to include hands-on features for kids and more detailed historical information for adults. He would also like to locate an old steam engine and a model of the mammoth Tacoma Ferry that floated trains across the river before completion of the rail bridge across the Columbia in 1908.

Development of the project is expected to begin in the fall of 2006.

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