Edmonton launches $24-million river valley funicular

Edmonton's new river valley funicular opened to the public on Saturday.

'It's worth the cost from a tourism and brand promotion point of view,' mayor says

Politicians from the municipal, provincial and federal governments attended the grand opening for Edmonton's new funicular. (Zoe Todd/CBC)

Edmonton's new funicular launched Saturday, on time and on budget.

The $24-million project connects to a promenade and a raised lookout with an elevator on the north bank of the North Saskatchewan River.

A stairway with built-in seating and a special path for runners opened parallel to the funicular track.

"All of the components, from the stairs to the promenade and the pedestrian bridge have been designed with both accessibility and beauty in mind," Mayor Don Iveson told roughly 100 people at the ribbon cutting.

A set of stairs with built-in seating runs parallel to the funicular. (Zoe Todd/CBC)
Edmonton's new funicular offers riders a sweeping view of the river valley. (Zoe Todd/CBC)

Edmonton shared the cost of building the funicular with the provincial and federal governments. The city will now pay "a few hundred thousand dollars" annually to maintain the structure, Iveson said.

"We think it's worth the cost from a tourism and brand promotion point of view, from a health and wellness and recreation point of view and because Edmontonians love their river valley," he said. 

"This is going to give them a whole new way to get in and out of it, especially from the busy downtown core."

The funicular is one of a number of river valley projects Edmonton is building in partnership with the River Valley Alliance. The alliance includes other municipalities that border the river, such as Strathcona County and Fort Saskatchewan.

"This is going to be a huge contribution to the quality of life in downtown Edmonton," said Larry Wall, executive director of the River Valley Alliance.

"It is directly intended to be able to enhance people's lifestyle by being in a central, downtown, brick-and-mortar sort of existence and immediately move you into a pristine natural area."

Dozens of first-time riders lined up Saturday behind the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, where the funicular starts its descent into the river valley.

"I think it's really cool and it goes a long way down," said eight-year-old Brooke Ruby Bemister, who rode the track with her brother Kayden.

"It's a great ride and I think people should come down to try it out," Kayden, 11, added. "It's a great opportunity to see the city of Edmonton."

But not everyone was as convinced.

"You've got a lot of walking to do for a little short ride," said Don Solar, who lives near the river valley. "I don't think it's worth $24 million, but it looks good for now." 

Brooke Bemister, eight, said she's excited to ride the funicular with her friends. (Zoe Todd/CBC)
Don Solar said he's not convinced the funicular was worth $24 million. (Zoe Todd/CBC)