'It's a great day': Urban Gondola plan to move forward in Edmonton
EDMONTON -- Edmonton city council voted Monday to move forward with plans for a proposed $150-million urban gondola that would ferry passengers across the river valley.
The latest motion for the privately funded project was carried 8-5 Monday, moving it into the next design phase.
Indigenous and public consultations and environmental assessments will now take place over the next 18 months.
Edmonton-based company Prairie Sky Gondola's proposal promises to transform the city's river valley and transport people from downtown to Whyte Avenue.
"It's a great day," Prairie Sky Gondola president Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson told CTV News Edmonton. "It's an exciting day for our team. Obviously this is the outcome we worked so hard for."
With the latest hurdle in the approval process cleared, Prairie Sky will spend roughly $9 million to move through the next phase.
"Our company is going to get much more sophisticated and complicated very quick here," said Hansen-Carlson. "Advancing the public and Indigenous engagement is going to really inform everything we do now going forward."
The Prairie Sky president says his company will also work on designing the more technical aspects of the project.
"We have to onboard more consultants and engineers and architects to do that work," he said. "Making the technical team much more robust to actually advance the project as it's informed by the engagement."
The new phase will also see Prairie Sky attempt to advance its business plan for the gondola.
"It takes a lot of work and resources to do properly," said Hansen-Carlson.
While Monday's vote does move the project forward, there is still no obligation for the city to approve the final pitch.
Full approval of the project would mean Prairie Sky would lease land from the city at an estimated $1.2 million a year.
One transportation planning expert wonders how feasible the idea really is, saying it's more of a tourist attraction than a viable mode of transportation for Edmontonians.
"Public transit is paid for by fares and subsidy from the taxpayers and if we were to go down that route to have the most attractiveness, the most number of people to use the gondola, there has to be a pretty difficult conversation about who's gonna pay for the subsidy," David Cooper, founder of Leading Mobility Consulting, told CTV News Edmonton.
"I can assure you he has not read our business case," Hansen-Carlson said in response to Cooper's assessment.
"In terms of the integration with ETS (Edmonton Transit Service), it boils down to us responding to principles council gave us and we're doing that in good faith and alignment with city plans, with active influence by administration."
Hansen-Carlson stressed that his company's business case, which was not made public, does not depend on integration with ETS.
"It's a 'nice-to-have,'" he said. "It's a good thing for the community, it creates more public benefit, but at the end of the day it's not essential to us."
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson told CTV News Edmonton a week earlier he liked what he had heard from the proposal so far.
"It's little moments like this that reaffirm just how much we love Edmonton," said the Prairie Sky president.
"That's how great cities do incredible things," he said. "It's finding that way to align the public sector and the private sector."
Councillors Sarah Hamilton, Mike Nickel, Aaron Paquette, Tim Cartmell and Moe Banga all voted to end the proposed project Monday.
If fully approved, construction of the gondola is expected to create approximately 1,000 jobs in the city.
Proponents say if all goes to plan, the gondola could be operating by the spring 2024.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson