The funicular, or mechanized project, that will provide access to Edmonton’s river valley is on time and on budget, the City of Edmonton said during a construction update Thursday morning.
The project includes a staircase, a promenade with a lawn, a bridge, an elevator and a lookout point. But the most notable aspect of the project is a funicular: a tram that moves up and down.
“Significant work has taken place over the past seven months, including pilings along Grierson Hill and concrete foundations for the funicular, the elevator, the urban staircase and the upper promontory,” Nat Alampi, director of Facility Design and Construction, said.
The Mechanized River Valley Access project will connect 100 Street near the Hotel Macdonald to the North Saskatchewan river valley near the Low Level Bridge.
Alampi said crews recently installed the funicular rails and are now working on installing steel for the staircase.
By the end of 2016, two major project milestones will take place. In October, steel will be installed for the pedestrian bridge over Grierson Hill Road, which will result in road closures. The funicular cab — currently being manufactured in Switzerland — is also expected to arrive by the end of the year.
City staff also unveiled the art piece that will accompany the project: a metal installation by artist Jill Anholt called Turbulent, inspired by the North Saskatchewan River.
The $150,000 piece will consist of thin, brightly coloured metal ribbons that will float above concrete benches along the grass lawn north of the promenade.
The ribbons will also act as seating for pedestrians.
“This is functional artwork, integrated into the existing North Saskatchewan river valley landscape and the new infrastructure,” Katherine Kerr, Edmonton Arts Council public art director, said.
“Bringing both worlds together while offering an opportunity for Edmontonians to see and interact with their city and each other in new ways.”
The piece was selected through the City of Edmonton’s Percent for Art program, which requires one per cent of the construction budget be put towards public art for municipal projects.
Notable art projects that came from the program include Alex Janvier’s stunning Iron Foot Place mosaic at Rogers Place and the Talus Dome silver ball sculpture near the Quesnell Bridge on Whitemud Drive.
Gallery below: Public art projects across Edmonton
The funicular project is part of Edmonton’s River Valley Alliance projects and comes at a cost of $24 million. The city contributed $1.7 million towards the total cost, and will also be responsible for maintenance and operations.
In 2013, Edmonton received $72.9 million in funding from the River Valley Alliance and the provincial and federal governments, for five projects that increase access to the river valley.
The “use it or lose it” funds came with strings, as the money had to be used for specific projects and had deadlines attached. Mayor Don Iveson said he felt backed into the project, because if the city said no to the funicular, the funds couldn’t be redirected to other projects.
“We were pushed by the deadline — particularly for the federal funding — into a series of decisions,” he said earlier this year.
Iveson speculates that if the dollars were unrestricted he might have put them to use building a new footbridge or trails instead, but admitted he thinks the funicular will be “quite beautiful.”
Watch Below: Feb. 24, 2016: Users of the Edmonton’s river valley trail system are excited construction will soon start on a funicular. The idea is getting hesitation from the city’s mayor but is still going ahead. Julia Wong reports.
The mechanized project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2017.
Edmonton previously had a river valley funicular in the early 1900s, but it was primarily used to move vehicles and animals.