Like it or hate it — a gondola in Edmonton’s river valley is another step closer to becoming a reality.
A new city report is recommending Edmonton city council approve a framework agreement that would see Prairie Sky Gondola Inc. begin moving towards a detailed design phase.
The plan would see gondolas pass over part of the North Saskatchewan River valley, connecting downtown to the Whyte Avenue area.
The report by the city’s administration, which is to be discussed at an urban planning committee meeting on Tuesday, notes at “a conceptual level, the proposed gondola aligns with the goals and objectives outlined in key City of Edmonton strategic planning documents, including ConnectEdmonton and the City Plan, and is supportive of the city’s objectives as defined in Reimagine, River Crossing Business Plan, Breathe and Plan Whyte.”
The report said Prairie Sky’s plan does not involve asking the city for funding, and would include five stations that Edmontonians can hop on or off at: downtown, Ortona Armoury, Rossdale, End of Steel Park and Whyte Avenue.
That’s an increase from the three stations in the original proposal, which was chosen in 2018 as the winner of The Edmonton Project: a contest asking people to come up with an idea that is uniquely Edmontonian.
“Based on the technical assessments, private sector funding and support of Edmonton’s strategic plans, administration recommends that further planning proceed,” the City of Edmonton report reads.
If council approves the recommendation, city administrators would work on getting the necessary land agreements approved while Prairie Sky would begin going through the regulatory process to move its plan forward to the construction phase.
At a council meeting last year, councillors passed a motion for city administration to continue working with Prairie Sky Gondola on assessing the feasibility of the proposal.
Some of the city council’s guiding principles for moving forward with the gondola idea were that the project should:
- Require no public funding
- Integrate with public transit
- Minimize its ecological footprint
- Have a suitable emergency response plan in place
- Have a process for building the gondola involve a “robust engagement plan for community and Indigenous stakeholders”
In an interview with Global News last year, Prairie Sky Gondola’s Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson said a feasibility study projected the new mode of transportation would attract 637,000 customers for a total of more than three-million trips during its first year of operations.
“It gives us a layer of confidence that there’s a legitimate need in the three tronches of customers we hope to be able to define,” Hansen-Carlson said. “There’s going to be urban commuters that use this, there’s going to be recreational users that use this and it’s going to create a tourism economy that didn’t exist before.
“For us to show up in the marketplace and have 637,000 customers as our first projection is a very healthy place for us to start from.”
Prairie Sky estimates construction costs will range between $132 million and $155 million and annual operating costs will be in the range of $12 million to $13 million, according to the city report.
The report projects that “the direct stimulus to the transportation engineering construction sector could add between $101.2 million and $118.9 million to Edmonton’s gross domestic product with full-time equivalent job creation between 780 and 920 over the course of construction.”
Prairie Sky Gondola estimates the project will employ the equivalent of 80 full-time positions during normal operations, the report said.
WATCH BELOW: Global News videos about an idea to have gondolas transporting people across Edmonton’s river valley