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About Mechanized Access

The Mechanized River Valley Access project will ensure that the river valley will be more accessible to people of all ages and abilities. On June 23, 2015, City Council approved the construction of the project connecting 100 Street near the Hotel MacDonald and the river valley trail system near the Low Level Bridge. Construction began in March 2016, and is anticipated to be complete by fall 2017.

Photo of project alignment

While the funicular may be the most attention grabbing and unique part of the Mechanized River Valley Access, the project is about so much more! Mechanized Access will create a new destination in our city — one that will allow people of all ages and abilities to access one of Edmonton’s most prized assets. This innovative, barrier-free system will allow people to enjoy both our vibrant Downtown and our amazing river valley within minutes. And while connectivity to nature is a key element, the project has also been designed to include programmable spaces, and places for active play, social engagement and relaxation.

The Mechanized Access budget is $24 million and is being funded by the River Valley Alliance supported by the provincial and federal governments, and the City of Edmonton.

View the photo gallery for the Mechanized River Valley Access project. 

This new city-building project has seven key elements:

The Promontory (top platform)

A promontory has been designed to take advantage of the amazing views from the top of the bank near the Hotel Macdonald. Stop under the sheltered canopy as you load onto the funicular, take a moment to relax at one of the seating areas, or spend a few moments at the top of the urban staircase taking in the sights.

Photo of promontory

The Stairs

Designed for more than getting from point A to point B, these are not your typical river valley stairs. Wide and welcoming, the stairs are a place to linger, to stop and sit, or to get in your daily workout. For those cyclists not wanting to take the funicular, a bike rail runs the length of the stairs.

Photo of stairs

The Funicular

With plenty of space for wheelchairs, walkers, strollers and bikes, the glass enclosed funicular will descend from the top of the bank to a promenade above the valley floor. The funicular will fit up to 20 people and can accommodate different configurations of bikes, trailers, strollers, and specialized equipment like wheelchairs or mobility scooters.

The Promenade

The steps and the funicular will land on a promenade, which includes a grassy seating area with benches for people to stop and enjoy the views. The promenade is designed to accommodate both through-traffic and citizens wanting to eat lunch, watch the sunset, or perhaps take in the Canada Day fireworks!

The Bridge

Connecting the promenade to the lookout, the bridge will provide a safe passage for pedestrians across Grierson Hill Road.

Photo of bridge

The Lookout

The bridge gently slopes down to overlook the edge of the river. A glass railing and built-in seating will allow a seamless, breathtaking experience. Take in the flow of the river and the downtown skyline!

Photo of river lookout

The Elevator

The elevator is an essential part of creating accessible, barrier-free access to the river valley. From the bridge, an elevator and a staircase will connect the Mechanized River Valley Access to the existing trail system and Louise McKinney Park, the Low Level Bridge and the Rossdale/River Crossing area.

What does mechanized access mean?

The City of Edmonton looks for opportunities to provide the public with connectivity between urban areas and the river valley. In addition to increasing connectivity in the river valley, the Mechanized River Access project is intended to address the challenges some citizens may face in accessing the river valley from Edmonton’s downtown. The current access (stairs near the Hotel MacDonald) presents a significant issue for people with mobility issues. Through thoughtful design and mechanized components, the project will provide all Edmontonians and visitors access to the river valley from our downtown.

In order to ensure this accessibility, the project includes an outdoor elevator and a funicular. A funicular is a cable propelled system that can haul one or two cars over an inclined track. The outdoor elevator would be located at the base of the project and will allow citizens to connect to the existing trail system.

Why was a funicular chosen?

The City considered a number of outdoor mechanized systems that have been built across the world in urban environments. The funicular was selected as the best option for this location to transport people between the higher and lower elevation. Funiculars are safe, have a smaller footprint than other options, typically have long service lives and are more economical than other fully accessible systems. 

What is the location of this project?

The Mechanized River Valley project will connect 100 Street near the Hotel MacDonald and the river valley trail system near the Low Level Bridge.

What are the timelines for this project?

Construction on the project began in March 2016.


For More Information

Rob Marchak

Title Director of Strategic Projects