A former consultant who commissioned the Tradewind friction report on the Red Hill Expressway testified that city staff nixed his suggestion for improving surface friction on the highway, because it would be an admission that there was a problem. Ludomir Uzarowski of Golder Associates who has been on the stand for several days, said he was told this when he recommended a surface friction technique known as “shot blasting” be applied to the road. Dr. Uzarowski said such a technique would not solve all of the problems with the road, but would be relatively cheap, could be done quickly, and would make an improvement in the friction characteristics of the pavement.
Dr. Uzarowski said that Gord McGuire of the Public Works Department wanted significant changes made a report he had been commissioned to conduct into the condition of the Red Hill pavement. In one section where Uzarowski talked about friction values being low, it was suggested it be changed to say they were adequate. “it would have turned our report upside down,” Uzarowski told Inquiry Counsel Andrew Lewis. He also said he consulted Golders lawyers about making changes that might have exposed Golder to legal risk.
One of the issues with friction testing that has come up several times in the inquiry is establishing a standard threshold of what is an acceptable reading. Informally, there seemed to be an agreement among experts that fr30 was the dividing line between acceptable and not acceptable, but there seemed to be a reluctance by experts to publicly set an exact number for fear of litigation. Even the Ministry of Transportation who conducted friction testing on the Red Hill in the years immediately after its opening, were reluctant to declare a standard friction number. In one email between MTO staff it was stated that if a number were to be established parts of the Red Hill in addition to some of MTO’s roads would fail based on MTO testing results.
It was also revealed in testimony that Golder was conducting its research unaware that another consulting firm, CIMA, was doing work that, in some areas, overlapped Golder’s work. CIMA, for instance, had recommended friction testing be conducted unaware that both Golder and MTO had already conducted testing.
There has been significant testimony in the inquiry thus far, that sheds light on the way consultant recommendations are massaged and negotiated to suit the client–In this case the city. Both CIMA and Dr. Uzarowski described the back-and-forth process that goes on. Dr Uzarowski said that pushback on his recommendations had become “more aggressive.” The city also wanted major changes in the CIMA report where it talked about the need for lighting and friction testing, and even after the report was watered down, staff still decided council should not see it. A council directive that lighting be closely explored ended up as a staff summary with no recommendations for action and effectively dismissed the lighting issue. CIMA witnesses attempted to downplay the degree to which draft reports are altered, but the contrast between draft reports and what eventually went to council is now part of the public record.