Proposed Edmonton river valley gondola climbs to design stage after council approves framework

By a split 8-5 vote, council approved an agreement framework between Prairie Sky Gondola and the city

Concept Sketch of Power Plant Station for the Prairie Sky Gondola in Edmonton. Image courtesy of Prairie Sky Gondola.A concept sketch of the Rossdale Power Plant Station for the Prairie Sky Gondola in Edmonton. Council approved an agreement framework on Monday allowing the project to advance to the detailed design and regulatory approval stage. Photo by Supplied /Prairie Sky Gondola

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A proposed gondola in the Edmonton river valley moved one step closer to becoming a reality following an endorsement from council Monday to advance the project.

By a split 8-5 vote, council approved an agreement framework between Prairie Sky Gondola and the city to allow work to continue on the proposed 2.5-kilometre line connecting Downtown to Whyte Avenue with five stops.

The privately-funded development can advance to the detailed design and regulatory approval stage with the framework in place, the third of five phases. Next steps also include transportation and environmental impact assessments as well as thorough public engagement and consultation with Indigenous groups.

More than 30 speakers addressed councillors last week about their thoughts on the project, with the majority voicing their support for the connectivity and economic growth the gondola could provide. A few others aired concerns about the impact on the river valley environment and wildlife in the area.

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Thirteen of the 20 towers and three of five stations are planned for the river valley and at least one tower would require tree removal on the south bank of the river near Queen Elizabeth Park Road.

Prairie Sky estimates the cost of construction between $132-155 million with annual operating costs around $13 million. It is planned to be funded, operated, constructed and maintained by Prairie Sky without any public funding from the city. The city predicts that if the gondola were to go ahead it could add up to $118.9 million to Edmonton’s gross domestic product with the creation of 780 to 920 jobs during the construction process.

The approved framework is non-binding, the city’s legal team told council, and there are still several regulatory requirements that will require votes from council for the project to continue moving forward.

Ward 8 Coun. Ben Henderson, who represents the southern area of the proposed gondola line, said he doesn’t want to see the idea shut down before they get all the details on how it would work and at that point council would get another opportunity to withdraw support.

“I love this city to death, but we have a really bad habit of finding reasons not to do things. It is part of our DNA,” he said. “Somebody has to battle through that so that we can get to the point where we do some of these things and then we can fall in love with them, which we always do.”

If the development continues to move forward, Prairie Sky projects the gondola could be up and running by spring 2024.

More to come.

duscook@postmedia.com

twitter.com/dustin_cook3

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