• Edmonton, AB
  • City of Edmonton
  • Graham Construction
  • Thurber Engineering
DIALOG Services
  • Architecture
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Planning & Urban Design
  • Structural Engineering
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The Mechanized River Valley Access connects Edmonton’s downtown with its spectacular river valley. The delightful journey includes a funicular, staircase, promenade and park, pedestrian bridge, lookout, and elevator, allowing people to overcome the steep riverbank slope. Not only a major infrastructure and accessibility project, this is a remarkable urban space defined by placemaking and an engaging public realm.

A beautifully-conceived ensemble of built structures, open spaces, and public art that successfully connects Edmonton’s downtown to the river valley. The juxtaposition of landscape attributes and the architectural details and materiality of the downtown milieu are compelling.
National Urban Design Awards Jury Comment
MRVA Edmonton Funicular sketch

How We Got Here

It all started with a sketch.
MRVA Edmonton Funicular bridge render

How We Got Here01

Not only an infrastructure and accessibility project, the design team saw this as an opportunity to be a remarkable urban space defined by placemaking.
MRVA Edmonton Funicular views v2

How We Got Here02

Many barrier-free options were explored, considering the steepness of the slope, vegetation, geotechnical characteristics, construction access, and trails.
MRVA Edmonton funicular alignment

How We Got Here03

The alignment is the safest route for pedestrians while maximizing views and creating gathering places along the way.
MRVA Edmonton Funicular winter rendering v2

How We Got Here04

Winter use was considered throughout the design process. Elements like lighting, wood-clad benches, and orientation towards the southern sun create a pleasant journey year-round.
MRVA Edmonton Funicular stairs winter

Points of Interest 01

Funicular Facts

Edmonton’s funicular is one of a kind. It’s one of only a handful around the world that doesn’t require an on-site operator. It can hold up to 20 people at a time and is long enough to accommodate an adult bike with child trailer. Users maintain the same direction of travel—they just walk or wheel in then continue in the same direction as they exit. Its maximum speed is about 2m/s. When the cabin is moving downhill, it rotates the motor and generates electricity that is returned to the grid, lowering the overall energy usage.

MRVA Edmonton Funicular bridge

Points of Interest 02

Elegant and Sustainable Materials

The materiality and overall form of the project is heavily influenced by the existing connective infrastructure of the city’s river valley system. The river valley is connected by a series of meandering wood stairs, boardwalks, and weathering steel foot bridges and this is an experience that is reinforced through the design. Kebony wood is used on the boardwalk and architectural cladding. Not only does it look beautiful and provide warmth, it has excellent dimensional stability and resistance to rot, expected to last 6 times longer than pressure-treated.

MRVA Edmonton Funicular construction

Points of Interest 03

Construction Challenges

The design team limited the impact of the project’s ecological footprint in the valley in terms of the physical footprint and the construction method. The foundation system includes groups of micropiles or screwpiles, and was selected to minimize earthwork and equipment access. Deep cuts into the slope were avoided to maintain slope stability, and experienced operators were required to handle equipment in this challenging environment.


2019 Showcase Awards - Award of Merit in Community Development, Consulting Engineers of Alberta

2019 Award of Excellence - Special Projects, Canadian Consulting Engineers

2018 Lighting Award - Exterior Lighting Design, Illuminating Engineering Society (IES)

2019 Alberta Steel Design Award of Excellence - Engineering, Canadian Institute of Steel Construction (CISC)

2018 Award for Transportation Innovation, Alberta Minister of Transportation

2018 Excellence in Hot-Dip Galvanizing, American Galvanizers Association