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2004 Transportation — Co-winner 1

City of Edmonton, Alberta

Ribbon of Steel—A Multi-use Trail and Streetcar Corridor

The City of Edmonton converted abandoned CP Rail lands into an aesthetic and vibrant corridor to promote increased physical activity and to manage inner city traffic volumes. The Ribbon of Steel is a multi-modal transportation corridor that serves the city's downtown core. It includes a multi-use trail for pedestrians and cyclists, a historic streetcar runs parallel to the trail, and there is access to the underground light rail transit station. It connects to existing trail systems at either end, notably Edmonton's busiest non-motorized transportation corridor, which has more than 1,100 active transportation crossings per day for nine months of the year. Installed lighting complies with the RCMP's Crime Prevention through Environmental Design principles and 25 per cent of daily traffic volumes on an intersecting roadway have been rerouted away from the corridor.

Background

The City of Edmonton has been active on many sustainable development fronts over the past decade. From a landfill gas capture and use project, to local action planning, the city is proud of its record on environmental protection. The city won an honourable mention from the 2003 FCM-CH2M HILL Awards for its Integrated Waste Management System and has also been a participant in FCM's Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) since 1995.

In 1999, the city approved its Transportation Master Plan (TMP), which supports a balanced transportation system for cyclists, pedestrians, public transit, and automobiles. The plan augmented several other strategies developed by the city, such as the Bicycle Transportation and Capital City Downtown plans.

These latter plans had identified a section of abandoned Canadian Pacific (CP) Rail lands as a potentially important active transportation corridor. The corridor is bound by apartment buildings, commercial properties, and parking lots, and runs along the edge of the city's downtown.
"A lot of people choose not to go downtown and pay for parking, so the corridor would give people the option to walk or ride downtown," said Claire Stock, one of the city's transportation engineers.

In addition, rehabilitating the lands for active transportation would help to revitalize the urban core and extend the infrastructure for a historic streetcar that now runs parallel to the multi-use trail.

Results

  • Construction was completed in October 2003, so preliminary usage levels at the time the FCM-CH2M HILL Sustainable Community Award was announced were based on winter conditions. One of the existing trails that connects to the Ribbon of Steel, however, is one of the busiest cycling and pedestrian routes with over 1,100 crossings per day most of the year. City officials expect higher volumes of users and will be monitoring usage levels over the course of 2004.
  • Before construction, the two existing trails in the area were unconnected. Inline skaters had to use narrow sidewalks and cyclists were restricted to on-road routes on one-way streets. The Ribbon of Steel eliminated the need to cross two roadways by utilizing a road closure and an underpass from the former railway operations.
  • Roadway modifications rerouted 25 per cent of daily traffic volumes from an intersecting roadway, and lane sharing between cyclists and motorists on that roadway has improved.
  • The complexity of the project challenged all staff associated with the project. City staff noted that roadway designers enjoyed the innovative work and realized that designing for cyclists and pedestrians can be as detailed and intricate as for motorized vehicles. The construction staff were also exposed to new techniques and thus expanded their expertise.

Lessons Learned

  • STRATEGIC LAND USE PLANS AND POLICIES ARE CRITICAL. Ms. Stock said that having the various strategic plans already in place gave the project team the leverage they needed to complete the project. Because of those plans, it was recognized that the Ribbon of Steel was a critical component of the city's long-term trail network and the lands were protected accordingly.
  • STUDY EXISTING TRANSPORTATION NETWORKS FOR OPPORTUNITIES. Many municipalities have abandoned rights-of-way or utility corridors that could be used for similar trail projects. "In Alberta, we have lots of oil pipeline corridors for example that are informally used by cyclists and pedestrians, so you have to consider all of the land's uses," said Ms. Stock.
  • CONSIDER ALL THE POTENTIAL USERS. The city took great effort to ensure that persons with disabilities had access to the trails. However, Ms. Stock reported that the city did not actively incorporate any measures for children. "It would have been good to have some seating areas just for them, or things to play with."
  • MAKE IT FUNCTIONAL AND AESTHETICS WILL FOLLOW. The city's immediate goal was to make the trail functional for all. As funding becomes available, other amenities, such as interpretive and historical panels and more landscaping will be added.

Partners and Collaboration

Internal

  • Transportation & Streets
  • Planning & Development
  • Community Services
  • Asset Management & Public Works

External

  • Infrastructure Canada-Alberta Program
  • Edmonton Radial Railway Society
Page Updated: 21/12/2015