High-priced funicular plan fails to impress city councillors

Edmonton’s river valley funicular is set to begin construction in two weeks, but the city still doesn't have a clear idea of how much it’s going to cost to run.

'There's no doubt that it's a lot of money,' said Mayor Iveson

An artist rendition shows how the proposed funicular and staircase might look. (City of Edmonton )

Edmonton's river valley funicular is set to begin construction in two weeks, but the city still doesn't have a clear idea of how much it's going to cost to run.

The funicular is part of a larger project the city is building in partnership with the River Valley Alliance, which includes a waterfront promenade, boat docks, trails and the Terwillegar Park Footbridge.

The total cost of all those projects is $72.9-million, of which the city is only expected to pay $1.7-million.

But the city pegs the operating costs at anywhere between $500,000 and $1-million.

Coun. Mike Nickel called the uncertainty "unacceptable."

"I was so frustrated," he said. "In these economic times, trying to argue for a funicular — I was right prepared to vote against it."

He voted in favour of moving forward with the project, but only because if the project was voted down the city would lose the funds from the River Valley Alliance, the provincial and federal governments.

Mayor Don Iveson said the expiring federal funding made him feel backed into a corner when it came to approving the project.

"There's no doubt that it's a lot of money," Iveson said. "I'm not sure if the dollars were unrestricted … I'm not sure I would spend them on this."

He said he's not surprised the city hasn't firmed up the operating costs, which will be determined by further engineering work.

He said even though the city will break ground on the project on March 7, the more complex elements won't be installed right away, giving the city's engineers time to work out the cost.

"To expect our guys to know to decimal what it's going to cost isn't realistic at this point," he said.

Nickel said he wants to get those operating costs as low as possible.

Iveson said he hopes the project works, and that it will be as marvellous as the illustrations depict.

"When it's said and done we are going to have barrier free access for all people, including people with mobility challenges, right into the heart of the river valley," he said."


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?