News / Edmonton

Edmonton river valley funicular explained

The city has completed about 60 per cent of the project, which will provide Edmontonians with access to the river valley

The Edmonton river valley funicular is 60 per cent complete, according to city officials.

Kevin Tuong / For Metro

The Edmonton river valley funicular is 60 per cent complete, according to city officials.

The city has finished about 60 per cent of the funicular — a $24-million project that will provide access the river valley via a mechanical tram-like vehicle beside the Hotel Macdonald. Where once it was just a weird word, residents are now noticing the idea is taking shape.

Metro offers a quick refresher on what will do what when the funicular is open, likely in the fall.

Below is a photo of the funicular — the number bubbles indicate where each part of the project is roughly located.

A look at the entire project. Hotel Macdonald sits in the background.

Kevin Tuong / For Metro

A look at the entire project. Hotel Macdonald sits in the background.

1. The stairs

They aren’t your typical stairs, according to Jesse Banford with the city’s facility infrastructure department. On one side, runners will be able to jolt up or down while sitting blocks — made of concrete — are on the other side for people to lounge on. Banford says the stairs have about 170 steps, and are made out of Kebony wood — an eco-friendly material known for its durability. 

2. The funicular


It fits about 20 people and moves using cables. Banford describes it like an elevator with glass walls — instead of moving vertically, the funicular moves at an angle. He says the funicular moves two metres per second, so one ride would take you about two minutes. But total trip time — which includes some walking — from the top-of-bank at 100 Street to the lookout is about eight minutes. 

3. The Promenade


The steps and the funicular will land on a promenade, a grassy park with benches that look like blue waves. Vancouver artist Jill Anholt designed them as part of her instillation called Turbulent. As part of the project, the city will plant 50 new trees and 2,000 new shrubs. The promenade is about 850 square metres. 

4. The Bridge


The bridge stretches over Grierson Hill Road and above the forested area. It’s covered in concrete deck panels, which were installed like “Lego blocks” using a 400-tonne crane, according to Banford. He says the entire project — from the top-of-bank to the river valley trail — is about 145 feet (44 metres). 

5. The Lookout 


The bridge eventually slopes down and becomes the lookout, which is positioned slightly before and above the river. There will be built-in seating made out of concrete. The railing facing the river will be entirely made out of glass, which will create a “seamless and breathtaking experience,” says Banford. 

6. The Elevator


The elevator, located just before the lookout, lets those who have accessibility challenges access the broader river valley trail system and Louise McKinney Park, among other destinations. The project will also connect to the original stairs that were in place before they were closed for construction.

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