A Fun (icular) Lift to the River Valley

January 8, 2018
Category: DT Advantage Winter 2018

A Fun (icular) Lift to the River Valley

The recent opening of the 100 Street Funicular gives more people better access to our beautiful River Valley.  Writer Scott Lingley brings us the story.

Edmontonians take great pride in their stunning River Valley. With more than 150 kilometres of maintained pathways and 22 parks, Edmonton’s River Valley is one of the most extensive urban park systems in North America. But not everyone has been able to take advantage of its natural beauty. That all changed on December 9th, when local dignitaries and residents gathered at the Hotel Macdonald for the opening of the Mechanized River Valley Access, which accessibly connects Edmonton’s Downtown with the River Valley’s trail system.

“This will be that access point so many people will use and come to love” said Mayor Don Iveson. “But it’s also going to be an exciting way to show off our city and our spectacular River Valley to our guests and tourists if they stay at one of our fantastic Downtown hotels, if they’re doing business in our financial district, if they’re coming here to look at investing— this is really going to be an anchor in everything we’re doing to pull our Downtown together.”

“This will be that access point so many people will use and come to love”

While the 100th Street Funicular - the hillside tram that can carry as many as 20 passengers at a time into and out of the River Valley - has garnered a lot of attention, the $24-million project comprises six elements including a staircase with built- in seating; a promenade featuring public art; a pedestrian bridge over Grierson Hill Road; a look-out platform 19 metres above the river named for landscape architect Frederick G. Todd, an early champion of the River Valley; and an elevator from the look-out to the riverside.

That said, the elegant glass-enclosed funicular is the undeniable main attraction, gliding gently down the slope as you look out over the river as though at the helm of a ship. The ride takes less than a minute, but affords a bird’s eye view of the River Valley, as well as the numerous construction cranes rejuvenating Downtown and laying in the River Valley LRT line. For people who love cycling or hiking the trails, but don’t love climbing steep hills to get home, or for those physically unable
(or unwilling) to climb hundreds of stairs the funicular will be a game changer.

Jesse Banford, Director of Facility Infrastructure Delivery with the City, said his team worked closely with the project designers and contractors to ensure the components were a good fit practically and esthetically.

“We wanted to incorporate what users were already accustomed to into the final design. There’s a seamless integration of existing elements with new construction, to create the sense that it really belongs there,” Banford said.

“We’re really excited. The river valley is a jewel and to provide access to everyone, no matter their mobility or fitness level, was paramount.”

“We’re really excited. The river valley is a jewel and to provide access to everyone, no matter their mobility or fitness level, was paramount.”

Jill Robertson, landscape architect with Dialog Design, says user experience was top-of-mind when her firm began working with the city on the project in 2014—and that meant new and customary users alike.

“One of the things that’s really cool about the project is that the cabin for the funicular is a custom size, so it fits two bicycles with bike trailers on the back and the custom design was to accommodate that use. We wanted to make sure it was really an accessible connection for a wide range of users.”

Ian O’Donnell, the Downtown Business Association’s Executive Director hails the new feature as more than the sum of its well-designed parts. “If it were just a funicular it would be great, but it’s so much more. It’s new vistas, new perspectives on the River Valley and a new place for people to gather. It contributes to a more walkable, livable city. Plus it was designed right here in Edmonton by Dialog and it looks fantastic.”

The funicular is located at 10065 100 Street and is open between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily.

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