Access to Edmonton's river valley improves with funicular

Funicular eases mobility challenges of the high banks of the North Saskatchewan River

gears, edmonton funicularJesse Banford (Construction Engineering Technology ’01, below) loves his city and the river that runs through it. He hopes his latest project will help show it off like never before.

As a director of facility infrastructure delivery at the City of Edmonton, Banford has led the construction of the $24-million Mechanized River Valley Access, which includes a funicular that will run south from downtown to the North Saskatchewan River. Started in 2015, it was completed in fall 2017.

“The primary objective behind this project is accessibility,” says Banford. “It’s for people who have trouble with the incline – families with strollers, bikes and anyone else who wants to go into the valley or up to downtown without having to make the climb.”

Banford equates the funicular to an electrically driven, glass elevator that carries roughly 20 passengers (including strollers, wheelchairs and bicycles) on an angle along the riverbank. Riders from the city centre will arrive at an 850-square-metre (9,150-square-foot) promenade with benches, lawn and public art. The trip to the river valley below takes two minutes.

From the promenade, a bridge leads pedestrians across a busy road to a lookout that extends out over the water. Among the sights are Edmonton’s signature river valley, as well as the University of Alberta to the south and the iconic Fairmont Hotel MacDonald situated directly above to the north.

While the funicular is a practical part of the city’s mission to make the North Saskatchewan River valley a place everyone can enjoy, Banford sees the fun in the project as well.

“It’s every child’s dream to have a fort at the top of the tree,” he says, “and that’s where the promenade and lookout are located – right at the top of the trees, with an amazing view of the river and the city.”

jesse banford, director of facility infrastructure delivery at the City of Edmonton, funicular, construction engineering technology, NAIT

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