Edmonton

'Edmonton Project' could make river valley gondola a reality

'Can you imagine, in 10 minutes, you could go from downtown to the heart of Old Strathcona, without a car?'

Telluride Ski Resort

A gondola stretching across Edmonton's river valley is among 10 proposals competing in the Edmonton Project, a competition which aims to build a new city landmark. (Telluride Ski Resort)

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If Gary Poliquin and Amber Poliquin have their way, Edmonton commuters will be carried across the North Saskatchewan River aboard a mechanized gondola lift.

The Edmonton couple envisions an eight car system that would stretch across three stations, connecting downtown to Old Strathcona.

The husband and wife team have pitched the idea to the Edmonton Project, a competition that aims to construct a new, unique landmark in the city.

Building a sky ferry would make Edmonton the envy of our neighbours, said Gary Poliquin. 

"Can you imagine coming up Gateway Boulevard, someone from Calgary is driving up," said Gary Poliquin. "They're almost to Saskatchewan Drive, and suddenly, woosh, there's a gondola from down below, flying over.

"I think it would make Edmonton a fixture. I think it would put Edmonton on the map as a modern metropolis."

The gondola would run about three kilometres from Old Strathcona to the old Epcor power plant, then up to downtown.

The stations would be located at the Shaw Conference Centre, one near RE/MAX Field, and one at the parking lot across from the Old Strathcona Farmers' Market.

The price tag could be anywhere from $30 million up to a whopping $300 million, said Poliquin,  depending on the style of gondola and how stations are constructed.

"It depends on what you're going for," said Poliquin. "If you're going for the Cadillac it's going to cost more, but I don't think you need that.

"I think the views of our valley and just connection itself is worth everything. You don't need the heated seats and all the little bells and whistles."

The system would provide efficient transport for commuters, and provide spectacular views of the river valley, said Poliquin, who runs the Edmonton tour company Big E Tours.  

The idea is among ten finalists for the Edmonton Project, a partnership between five companies that want to add a distinct landmark to the city.

Online voting on the finalists is now open but ultimately, the winning entry will be picked by a panel of judges at a public hearing showdown that will take place March 6.

Poliquin's idea is up against such imaginative pitches as building the world's largest treehouse in an Edmonton park, erecting a food truck ferris wheel in the river valley, or constructing a steamy, outdoor sauna in the river valley.

'We want to make sure it's based more on fact than wishful thinking' - Gary Poliquin

"There are some amazing ideas out there," said Poliquin. "Ours is probably the most expensive of all of them but we think our idea can potentially impact the most citizens.

"Can you imagine, in ten minutes, you could go from downtown to the heart of Old Strathcona, without a car?

"You can't even do that on a bicycle, unless you are dressed in Lycra and you're ready to go, you're not going to make it."

While the idea may sound a bit fantastical, Poliquin is serious about the proposal.  He's been consulting with designers and engineers as far away as Switzerland, and seeking feedback from the provincial and federal governments.

"We want to make sure it's based more on fact than wishful thinking," he said.

CBC Radio show, Edmonton AM will be talking to each of the finalists and profiling the final project pitches over the next two weeks. Submit your vote in the Edmonton Project online.

Listen to Edmonton AM with host Mark Connolly, weekday mornings at CBC Radio One, 93.9 FM in Edmonton. Follow the morning crew on Twitter @EdmAMCBC.

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