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It was ‘lights out’ literally, on a consultant’s report on Red Hill safety

It was ‘lights out’ literally, on a consultant’s report on Red Hill safety

The last two days of testimony at the Red Hill Inquiry have focused on a 2013 safety review of the highway that was conducted by the consulting firm CIMA. The review was ordered at the behest of council after councillors had been receiving complaints from constituents and the media about the safety of the road. Testimony extracted from two former CIMA employees, coupled with documents released by the Inquiry, show the CIMA report was highly scrutinized during its development, subjected to several drafts and revisions and that the final report was altered to remove most references to potentially dangerous conditions including the lack of illumination. Inquiry documents also show a level of tension between Gary Moore who was responsible for building the road, and the city Traffic department who were responsible for the operation of the road, now six years after its completion; but at the end of the day both departments had a hand in the changes that ultimately were made to the CIMA report.

In the early going CIMA apparently didn’t realize that improving lighting on the road was a subject that Moore insisted was off the table as part of the Environmental Assessment that was conducted before the highway was built. They went ahead and evaluated lighting conditions using industry standard measuring techniques and concluded that lighting was justified on some of the ramps and partial lighting was justified on the mainline between the Mud-Stone Church ramp and Greenhill.

In a preliminary meeting with city traffic staff, CIMA was told it was ok to do the light testing but to be cautious because of “political and other design constraints,” and that “site specific illuminations are probably better than full illumination,” according to meeting minutes.

By July the report had been revised to recommend illumination only on the Mud Street interchange, but the report went further to include a line that said no review of the possibility of full lighting had been conducted by CIMA. Commission Counsel Emily Lawrence questioned Brian Applebee of CIMA who drafted the report, first reading a quote from the report, “(A) Review of full illumination was not undertaken but was restricted to spot locations” Would you agree with me that CIMA had actually done a review of full illumination? Applebee: “Yes I would agree that a review was done.” Lawrence: “So ‘a review of full illumination was not undertaken’—that’s not accurate?” Applebee: “Correct—that’s not fully accurate…”

In the end it was decided not to share the CIMA report with council, instead to have city staff summarize it in the council report. But the revisions were still necessary according to an email from Geoff Lupton of the Hamilton Traffic Department who shared the CIMA report with Gary Moore and wrote “I’ve reviewed with Gary… he’s good, but suggests that we manage the final version of the report to reflect what we are saying. He said it’s not uncommon to get an FOI (Freedom of Information request) to this type of thing.” Adding, “Please sit down with CIMA and make this happen.”

A few weeks after that exchange and almost a year after council had requested the safety review Council received a two-page staff report that addressed safety thusly: “The findings of the study indicated that the Red Hill Valley Parkway is operating safely. However, the report did suggest implementing several safety countermeasures that could further enhance or improve driver safety and security. Many of the recommendations identified involve relatively minor changes to various signs and pavement markings in the study area.” On the issue of lighting, which had been the first item in the council request, the report read, “It should be noted that as part of the original RHVP design and prior Council approval, the roadway lighting was not recommended or implemented as a result of the environmental concerns (light pollution).”

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