Edmonton's funicular project on time and on budget

Edmonton's funicular project should be completed by the fall of 2017 with the first cab gliding up and down the tracks within a few months after that. City officials say the $24-million project is on time and on budget.

Tracks for cab already in place, interactive art unveiled

A worker installing part of the staircase next to the funicular tracks. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

Edmonton's funicular project to connect downtown with the river valley should be completed by the fall of 2017, city officials say.

Seven months into construction, the rail tracks are now in place for the project, which is being reported as on budget and on schedule.

"It's been quite a challenge to build such a unique project on quite a narrow, steep slope adjacent to the downtown core," Nat Alampi, the city's director of facility design and construction, said on Thursday. "But it's a challenge the project team has happily accepted."

Funicular project will make Edmonton's river valley accessible

5 years ago
Construction of funicular to eliminate the barriers to the river valley is underway and it is expected to be finished by fall 2017. 0:54

Speaking on the upper platform, close to the Hotel Macdonald where people will board the funicular, Alampi described the view of the river valley as spectacular.

When finished, the funicular will make it easier for people to get down into the river valley instead of simply looking at those views, said Rob Marchak, director of urban initiatives.

"It's about connectivity and accessibility to the river valley," Marchak said. "And about giving everybody an equal opportunity, whether you have mobility issues, whether you're with a stroller or whether you're on a bike."

Vancouver artist Jill Anholt's work, titled "Turbulent," is a series of concrete benches with floating metal ribbons. (City of Edmonton)

Marchak likened the funicular to an inclined elevator that will glide up and down the tracks, pulled by cables.

To reach the trails, funicular riders will land at a promenade, then cross a pedestrian bridge over Grierson Hill, then board an elevator that connects to the trail system.

The grassy promenade area will feature an interactive piece of art that was commissioned for the project.

Vancouver artist Jill Anholt won the art competition; her work, Turbulent, is a series of benches inspired by the water patterns of the North Saskatchewan River.

Nat Alampi describes Edmonton's funicular project as unique to Western Canada. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

Drivers are being warned to prepare for weekend road closures on Grierson Hill in October, as construction crews install the structural steel that will link the promenade area to the elevator and trails below.

The funicular cab itself should arrive at the site by the end of the year. It's currently being manufactured in Switzerland.

Construction will be finished by the fall of 2017. But the funicular might not be open to riders until a couple of months later, in part so the city has time to train the staff who will maintain the equipment and machinery.

The funicular will be free to ride. It is designed to function all winter, except in the most extreme cold, and will be able to carry 20 people at a time.