Screencapture of the Red Hill inquiry website.

The long-awaited Red Hill Parkway Inquiry begins today at 9:30 am and will be live-streamed on YouTube.

The Inquiry will seek to determine how a 2013 asphalt friction report was buried for nearly six years.

The report found the asphalt along portions of the highway was failing to provide the required level of friction. The report reappeared at some point in 2018 when a City staffer found it. In 2018, the City’s senior-most managers choose to delay revealing the report until after the 2018 municipal election.

Once the report was revealed in January 2019, an emergency repaving of the Expressway was completed.

During the six-year delay in repairing the highway, there were hundreds of collisions and four deaths.

Following a public outcry regarding the cover-up, a Public Inquiry was called. For the past two-and-a-half years, the Inquiry has poured over tens of thousands of documents, conducted dozens of interviews, retained experts, and engaged in legal wrangling with City Council.

City Council Trying to Keep Documents from Inquiry

One of the first orders of business is dealing with a request from Hamilton City Council to prohibit the Inquiry from seeing and considering 83 city documents related to their cover-up of asphalt friction.

Council is claiming the documents are subject to legal privilege.

The Inquiry’s Counsel (who represents the public interest) says the documents are essential for consideration and Council waived its privilege when it called the Inquiry.

Inquiry Commissioner Justice Herman J. Wilton-Siegel will need to determine how to deal with the request for privilege. In similar public inquiries, the Commissioners have referred privilege questions to another Justice of the Superior Court to review the documents and make a ruling.

Experts will Explain the Basics

Virginia Tech Civil Engineering Professor Dr. Gerardo W. Flintsch will speak on Day Two to provide a “Primer on Friction, Friction Management and Stone Matrix Asphalt Mixtures.” The doctor’s overview will help the Inquiry and public better understand the methodologies, standards, and best practices involved in the composition of highway asphalt mixtures.

On Wednesday, Day Three, Professional Engineer Russell Brownlee will provide testimony entitled “Principal Design and Maintenance Standards, Guidelines and General Practices for Ontario Highways” to help the Inquiry and public understand the foundational standards and practices which will be discussed throughout the Inquiry.

The Inquiry will post all exhibits online for the public to see.

Phase One: Questions of Fact, 17 Witnesses

The first phase of the Inquiry will “focus on questions of fact relating to the construction of the Red Hill Valley Parkway (RHVP), friction testing conducted by Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation on the RHVP, consultant and staff reports on the RHVP, and the discovery and public release of the report on friction testing,” states the Inquiry website.

There are 17 witnesses for the first part of Phase One of the Inquiry. The 17 witnesses on the list include the consultants who research, tested, and wrote the 2013 friction testing report that is at the heart of the Inquiry, the City staff involved in receiving the report, people involved in the construction of the Red Hill, and Ministry of Transportation Ontario [MTO] staff involved in various aspects of both the construction and the MTO’s own testing which found concerning information about the friction quality.

Former Hamilton City Manager Chris Murray, who was the City’s Red Hill construction project manager, and the City’s construction engineering managers Gary Moore and Marco Oddi are listed. The Inquiry list states Moore and Oddi will be called to the stand again in later phrases. Murray is not scheduled to return to the stand.