Hamilton

Testimony in Red Hill Valley Parkway scandal won't happen until the fall

It will be fall before the judge in a judicial inquiry starts holding hearings into the Red Hill Valley Parkway scandal around the friction of the asphalt on the road.

Judge 'will determine who knew what and when,' says inquiry's top lawyer

"We consider transparency to be a very important value," says Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel of the Red Hill Valley Parkway inquiry. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

It will be fall before the judge in a judicial inquiry holds hearings into the Red Hill Valley Parkway scandal around the friction of the asphalt on the road.

Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel said Thursday that his team will pore over documents and likely start holding public hearings sometime in September.

Friday is the first full-day session in the inquiry, with nine parties making the case why they should be involved, said Rob Centa, the inquiry's head lawyer. But it will be months before Wilton-Siegel starts hearing public testimony.

"He will find facts," Centa said. "He will determine who knew what and when. He will make some policy recommendations, as set out in the terms of reference, to describe some best practices around the communication of information between city staff and the public."

Right now, he said, the team still doesn't know how long it will take, but "the hearings phase will start in the fall."

Wilton-Siegel's team held a meeting Thursday night for the public to ask questions. About 30 people listened in city council chambers, but there was only one question: whether insurance adjusters who determine payouts to people in collisions will be part of the process.

Centa said it's not unusual for there to not be many questions. Some inquiries don't hold public meetings like that.

"We were delighted to see so many people come out on a cold January evening to hear directly from us, and from the commissioner."

Centa said the team is looking at live streaming the testimony, most exhibits will be publicly available.

"We consider transparency to be a very important value," Wilton-Siegel said.

The inquiry stems from a 2013 Tradewind Scientific report. The company found that in some areas, the asphalt friction fell well below UK safety standards. There were no similar North American safety standards. 

A year ago, city council said it hadn't seen the report. It was found, it said, in a locked computer folder after a new director of engineering was hired.

The lead consultant on the report, Golder Associates, says the report was brought up in multiple meetings over the years, along with safety recommendations.

The safety of the highway has been an issue in recent years. Several families of people injured or killed there have insisted the highway is unsafe. Some are suing the city now

The city has spent millions on improving the highway, including changing the asphalt and reducing the speed limit from 90 to 80 km/h. 

One of those family members, Belinda Marazzato, will seek participation Friday. So will Golder Associates, Dufferin Construction, the city and the province, among others. 

The city has estimated that the inquiry will cost as much as $11 million. Wilton-Siegel can only make recommendations. It will be up to city council to follow them.

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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