The Red Hill Valley Parkway inquiry has begun by hearing nine presentations from groups and individuals seeking to take part in the process.
Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel, who is leading the judicial inquiry into a buried 2013 report about friction levels on the parkway, heard from a number of interested parties at Hamilton City Hall on Friday.
That includes Golder Associates Limited, the company that sub-contracted the Tradewind Report at the centre of the inquiry, which submitted an application to take part claiming to have evidence that is “key” to the inquiry. Golder is headquartered in Toronto.
Lawyer Jennifer Roberts spoke on behalf of Golder, saying the company was retained by the City of Hamilton to evaluate the performance of the parkway and investigate surface cracking, in response to reports from Hamilton police in September 2013 that ramps and road surfaces on the Red Hill were slippery in wet conditions.
During her presentation, Roberts said that report wasn’t the only time Golder advised the city.
“The terms of reference are framed as though the friction findings in the Tradewind Report were the sole instance in which advice was provided to Hamilton in relation to the frictional quality of the pavement and how it could be improved,” said Roberts. “And forgive us for challenging the assumptions in the terms of reference, but we don’t agree.”
“It will be Golder’s evidence that there were successive, subsequent discussions with Hamilton about the friction testing results and advice given as to how frictional quality of the surface could be improved.”
Documentation submitted to the inquiry by Golder in its application says that the company discussed the report’s findings with the city multiple times between 2014 and when it was supposedly “uncovered” in 2018, including several instances in which the company says it recommended remedial measures like microsurfacing and shot blasting.
Dan McKinnon, general manager of public works for the city of Hamilton, told Global News that he believes Golder met with city staff on several occasions for a “variety of reasons”, but said he was not personally in attendance and could not confirm what was discussed. McKinnon was appointed to the general manager role in August 2016.
He added that the city will likely be providing any evidence of these meetings to the inquiry at some point.
Golder has requested funding up to $200,000 for its participation in the inquiry, citing the effort and time required to compile and review evidence.
The city of Hamilton has also submitted an application to take part in the inquiry, citing “substantial and direct interest in the subject matter.”
Other applicants include the province of Ontario and Dufferin Construction Company — which constructed the parkway between 2006 and 2007.
Presentations were also given by lawyers on behalf of residents who have been impacted by accidents on the Red Hill, including Dermot Nolan, who represents Belinda Marazzato.
Belinda’s daughter, Olivia Smosarski, was the victim of a fatal crash on the parkway in May 2015.
Olivia, who was 19 at the time, was a passenger in a car driven by her friend Jordyn Hastings, when the vehicle suddenly went out of control and crossed the median, colliding with another vehicle head-on. Olivia and Jordyn were both killed in the crash.
Although Marazzato’s lawyer made the formal submission on her behalf, the still-grieving mother also briefly spoke to Commissioner Wilton-Siegel on Friday.
“The morning after the accident, I went to the scene. I had a deep and unshakeable knowledge that this road was not safe,” said Marazzato. “From everything I learned, from every desperate question I asked, and the answers I was given, all roads led to something in the Red Hill conditions that caused this tragedy. But I had nothing to prove it.”
“I was horrified to find out years later that two reports, which identified problems with the road long before that night, were never disclosed or acted upon. To think that, had they been, we might still have our daughters … it torments me.”
The inquiry is expected to reach a decision about who will take part in the process sometime in February.
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