The funicular in Edmonton’s river valley is officially open for business.
The inclined elevator takes visitors from 100 Street by the Hotel Macdonald to the area around the Low Level Bridge. A staircase runs alongside the funicular, which leads to a promenade before opening out to a pedestrian bridge over Grierson Hill with a lookout over the North Saskatchewan River.
Mayor Don Iveson, along with several councillors, joined representatives from the provincial and federal government for the opening ceremonies, which involved a singing of the song “Funiculi, Funicula” and a ribbon cutting.
Iveson said there are operations and safety plans for the funicular and said the city is diligent about maintenance.
“I’m confident the snow will be removed in a timely fashion and the mechanism will be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications,” he said.
Adam Laughlin, the city’s deputy manager for integrated infrastructure services, said the stairs beside the funicular will also be maintained.
“It does get regular treatment and similar to the stairs or roads that have steep inclines do get a preferential level of maintenance or treatment when we experience those weather conditions,” he said.
The mayor said it will cost roughly a few hundred thousand dollars every year to keep the infrastructure up and running.
“It is going to have a cost to maintain. We’ve budgeted for that,” he said.
“We think it’s worth the cost from a tourism and brand promotion point of view, from health and wellness and recreational point of view, and because Edmontonians love their river valley. This is going to give them a whole new way to get in and out of it.”
The $24 million project, which received funding from all three levels of government, is meant to make the river valley more accessible.
Chris McCollum lives in north Edmonton but made his way to downtown Edmonton on Saturday specifically for the funicular opening.
“I’m super excited about anything promoting the river valley and accessibility,” he said.
“[The] funicular is just a way to get down to the river valley. A lot of people like to talk about it but don’t actually visit it so this is a super easy way to get down to the river.”
McCollum, who works downtown, said the laborious trek back up the river valley sometimes deterred him from taking full advantage of the city’s largest green space.
“It was definitely difficult. You have to navigate many different staircases. I’d come back to work sweaty and it just wasn’t as easy so this will make a big difference. I’ll be able to bring more people downtown, down to the river with me,” he said.
Fellow Edmontonian Sebastian Reidl was impressed by what he saw.
“I was really impressed by the view… that overlooks the river there. It’s a really nice view and the funicular too. It’s like a glass box. It’s nice,” he said.
Reidl is expecting to capitalize on the funicular.
“Especially when I’m riding my bike, it makes it a lot easier to come downtown. It’s easy to get down to the river valley but then you’re like, I don’t want to come up the other side and get all sweaty,” he said.
The funicular can fit up to 20 people and will operate from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. The city said the project was completed on time and on budget.