Hamilton should consider high-friction surface to improve safety on Red Hill: report

A simple resurfacing of the RHVP might not be enough to cut down on crashes, according to a safety assessment, which suggests the city also consider the need for a high-friction surface.

Study points to 'excessive speed' and 'inadequate skid resistance' as crash factors

A 2019 report that was just made public recommends the city consider high-friction pavement. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

A simple resurfacing of the RHVP might not be enough to cut down on crashes, according to a safety assessment, which suggests the city consider the need for a high-friction surface.

The January 2019 report from CIMA+ analyzed the six-kilometre expressway and reviewed collision statistics. It provides a long list of recommendations to improve safety on the deadly road, which it describes as having an "atypically high proportion" of single-vehicle collisions — particularly in wet conditions.

The study was made public for the first time Wednesday, the latest in a series of revelations following a bombshell announcement last week that a 2013 Tradewind report raising concerns about the friction levels on the RHVP was never brought to council.

It's the third time CIMA+ has studied the RHVP, including a 2015 report which was also released Wednesday following a marathon city council session.

The most recent report says the proportion of crashes when the road is wet was "noticeably higher" than was found during the 2015 review which was already "significantly higher" than the averages for the province or city.​

The findings point to "excessive speeds" and "inadequate skid resistance" as factors in crashes.

The 2019 CIMA+ report looked at hundreds of collisions along the Red Hill Valley Parkway and its ramps. (CIMA+)

CIMA+ says collision records for the city from 2013 to 2017 show 939 crashes along the RHVP, and another 231 on ramps.

A breakdown of the 852 crashes where driver action is known shows 47 per cent of drivers were reportedly driving properly, 23 per cent lost control, 10 per cent were driving too fast for the road conditions, and another 10 per cent are said to have been following too closely. 

Just 17 drivers —two per cent— were reportedly exceeding the speed limit.

Problem areas with the highest frequency of collisions are also identified, including Mud Street to Greenhill Avenue and Greenhill Avenue to King Street — particularly on the northbound side.

City promises 'highway standard' asphalt 

Following the discovery of the 2013 report, the city announced plans to move up its $15.5 million-plan to resurface the parkway to this spring.

A city spokesperson did not directly address a question from CBC News whether or not it will be following CIMA+'s suggestion to consider a specifically high-friction surface.

Instead, Jasmine Graham said the asphalt will have "friction performance" consistent with that of industry standards.

"The material used will be at a highway standard that is based on provincial specifications and applied to the entire project," Jasmine Graham wrote in an email. 

But Ahmed Shalaby, an asphalt expert and municipal infrastructure chair at the University of Manitoba, said there are no set Canadian standards for road surface friction.

To further complicate matters, testing carried out by the Ministry of Transportation on four kilometres of the RHVP between 2007 and 2014 found friction levels "acceptable," meaning the stone used in its asphalt was added to a list of approved sources for Ontario roads.

In contrast, the 2013 Tradewind report that's sparked so much debate and action from the city, found friction on some parts of the highway was below ideal safety levels.

Families considering legal options

Following a 10-hour meeting Wednesday, half of which was spent behind closed doors, council voted to ask a lawyer to provide the city with options for an independent, external investigation into who knew about the 2013 report and how it became buried.

Given the community interest in the investigation, elected officials including NDP leader Andrea Horwath and Ward 9 councillor Brad Clark are calling for a public, judicial review.

Families who lost loved ones in crashes on the parkway are also considering their legal options, including the possibility of a class action lawsuit.

Safety upgrades are ongoing

Hamilton has already followed several of the CIMA+ recommendations, including installing oversized speed limit signs and upgrades to guardrails and reflectors.

Graham said the city also plans to put flashing beacons on slippery when wet signs next week and re-install digital message signs and a queue-end warning system in mid-March.

The resurfacing project will also mean more improvements for markers, rumble strips and shoulder and median structures.

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