Construction will soon start on a mechanized way to get into the heart of the city’s river valley trail system.
The City of Edmonton Executive Committee approved an environmental assessment report Tuesday, putting the city one step closer to having a funicular.
A funicular is a tram that moves up and down and there are plans to start building one at 100 Street near Hotel MacDonald. The project would end in the trail system near Low Level Bridge. It was approved by city council last June.
Trail users told Global News Tuesday night they are excited about the project, which would create barrier-free access to the trail system.
“It’s good to get people down here, more access,” Mark Woodhouse, who was running in the River Valley with his dog, said.
“This is really the aspect of the city we should probably tout the most,” said runner David Falk, who uses the trail system approximately five times a week.
“It’s a large green space and most cities don’t have it. It’s not a normal thing and if it makes it accessible to more of the population, I don’t see how that can be a bad thing.”
But while trailer users praised it, there was some hesitation from Mayor Don Iveson, who said he felt backed into the project.
“We were pushed by the deadline – particularly for the federal funding – into a series of decisions,” he said, adding he thinks the funicular will be “quite beautiful.”
“I’m not sure, if the dollars were unrestricted, which is what we always want, we want flexible unrestricted dollars that we can put to areas of highest use. I’m not sure it would be this quite honestly.”
Iveson said there may be better uses for the money, but at this point, it’s now or never since the funding will soon expire for the project, which includes a viewing area, a bridge and a wider staircase.
“If it was up to me, I might be doing something different. Is there another footbridge we could build? Are there other trail extensions we could build within the river valley? But really, this is the only thing we can do that will meet the timeline,” he said.
Iveson said the project will take two phases: the frame and structure then the actual funicular railway. The entire project has a price tag of $24 million. The River Valley Alliance, the province and the federal government are all chipping in money. The city is responsible for $500,000 plus maintenance and operations.
The mayor pegged those costs as between $500,000 to $1 million.