Hamilton

Consultant says it discussed 'buried' Red Hill report with city several times since 2014

The Red Hill Valley Parkway Inquiry will hear from nine applicants wanting to participate in the multi-million dollar investigation into a buried safety report, including a group that says they spoke with the city several times about its results.

9 groups are applying to be participants in the Red Hill inquiry

The Commissioner of the Red Hill Valley Parkway inquiry wants in person submissions from all nine applicants who want to be participants. They'll present their cases in the new year. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

The consultant involved with the safety report at the centre of the Red Hill Valley Parkway Inquiry says it discussed the damning results with the city of Hamilton on several occasions since 2014.

Golder Associates says the report was brought up in meetings multiple times during the years before the city said staff "became aware" of and found the report in a locked folder in 2018. Golder says it also presented the city with options for making the highway safer during those meetings.

The meetings are outlined in Golder's application to be a participant in the RHVP Inquiry, which is investigating how a 2013 Tradewind Scientific report stayed buried. 

Golder commissioned the safety report, which showed that friction on sections of the RHVP was below acceptable UK standards, and in some cases, well below. There isn't a standard for friction levels in North America.

Golder is one of nine applicants to participate in the inquiry, which enters a public phase in early January. The commissioner, Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel has scheduled a public session to hear oral submissions from each of them to decide if they qualify to participate.

Among them are the city, province, a construction company, a group of 200 people involved in crashes, and a mother whose daughter died in a car crash. 

In its application, Golder says it emailed the report's results, provided a hard copy, and discussed the findings and recommendations at a meeting with the city in February 2014. 

It also says it re-sent the report in 2015, discussed the results again in a meeting with the city in 2017, and talked about recommendations for the highway several times over the years. 

City officials said the report stayed hidden in its locked folder for years until a new director found it in 2018. 

When the public found out in February 2019, the city apologized, sayings its staff became of aware of the document in late 2018 through an audit process. The general issues committee, it said, had received the information for the first time. 

Olivia Smosarski and Jordyn Hastings died in a crash on the Red Hill Valley Parkway. Smosarski's mother is applying to be a participant in the inquiry. (Jordyn Hastings/Facebook)

Golder, which was also responsible for quality assurance during the RHVP construction in 2007, does not specify exactly who it emailed or spoke to during its contacts with the city.

But its application claims to have information where the report recommendations were discussed, even during 2018. 

Applicants make their cases in the new year

Though the nine participants have submitted written applications, the commissioner has decided he wants to hear directly from everyone interested. All nine have been asked to present, regardless of whether they requested the chance to do so.  

People will present their case on why they should be involved — and to what extent — on Friday, Jan. 10  in the Council Chamber at City Hall, 71 Main St. W. starting at 10 a.m. The meeting is public.

The Commissioner can grant applicants the right to participate in some or all parts of the inquiry. 

The city will be the first to go, followed by the province and then Dufferin Construction Company, who built the RHVP from Mud Street interchange to QEW interchange. 

Those who lost loved ones want representation

None of the applicants asked for their applications to be kept confidential, and eight of them are posted on the inquiry's website. One has been kept separate pending a fuller revision. 

A group of six lawyers representing around 200 people involved in crashes on the RHVP, including some who have lost loved ones, will also present. They expect to have information on around 250 - 300 crashes by the time the inquiry gets underway.

Also presenting is Belinda Marazzato, whose daughter Olivia Smosarski and her friend, Jordyn Hastings, died in a crash on the parkway in 2015. She wants full participation for herself and her other children.  

In her application, Marazzato says that the loss of her daughter has been devastating, and that by participating in the inquiry, she'll be able to better understand the factors that could have contributed to her daughter's death. 

Most importantly, she says, her experience and her daughter's tragedy might help the inquiry make findings and recommendations to ensure future tragedies can be prevented so that "other families will not have to experience the unspeakable pain which [they] continue to endure." 

A previous supervisor of accounting for the city and someone injured on the RHVP are also vying for participation. 

A public meeting will also happen the day before these presentations on January 9, 2020 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in city hall's council chamber to hear from Wilton-Siegel and for the public to ask questions about participating. 

Both meetings will be broadcast and streamed by Cable 14. 

The city has reduced the speed limit of the roadway from 90 km/h to 80 km/h, moved up its resurfacing work, and put millions in improvements into the RHVP since 2015.

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