Hot, sticky mess: Red Hill reopens after liquid asphalt spill

After nearly a full day of clean up, all lanes of the Red Hill Valley Parkway are reopen for the Friday commute. While most of the 44,000 litres of liquid asphalt that spilled onto road and median areas has been cleaned up, there are still some repairs and clean up that will continue into next week, the city said in a release late Thursday. A transport truck spilled thousands of litres of liquid asphalt onto The Red Hill Valley Parkway in an early-morning crash Thursday that closed the major roadway all day for significant cleanup work.

The transport truck, filled with the sticky liquid asphalt used to bind aggregate together in cement mix, crashed around 4:30 a.m. The truck was northbound when for an unknown reason it hit an overpass at King Street East and rolled, landing sideways against the centre guardrail. The parkway was initially closed completely in both directions and by late morning it was closed southbound between Queenston Road and Greenhill Avenue, and northbound between Stone Church Road and King Street East. This closure was expected to remain in place until at least after the afternoon rush, into Thursday evening. Following the crash, two people in the truck were rescued by firefighters using an aerial ladder and taken to paramedics.

The driver, a 34-year-old man, and a 47-year-old male passenger, were transported to hospital for treatment of minor injuries, said Const. Jerome Stewart. Hamilton Fire’s hazardous materials (HAZMAT) team contained the leaking asphalt and set up containment systems along the road and median, said Hamilton Fire Chief Dave Cunliffe. The City of Hamilton public works and Ministry of the Environment were called to the scene, along with CP Rail who assessed the overpass and train track and found it wasn’t damaged. The cold weather helped the cleanup because the sticky asphalt quickly froze, instead of running down the road “like a little river,” said Edward Soldo, director of roads and traffic for the City of Hamilton. In some areas the asphalt hardened five centimetres thick.

The city redeployed contractors working on other construction jobs in the city to the site, he said. The crews used a front-loader to scoop up the hardened asphalt and soil in the grassy centre median, and a Bobcat to scrap off the spilled asphalt and shave the top couple of inches off about 100 metres of road. The spill mostly affected the northbound lanes. The shaved down road is being resurfaced with fresh pavement.Soldo said the resurfacing is necessary because when temperatures rise the asphalt will become liquid again and sticky. There was also damage to the steel guardrail from the impact of the collision and because it was sprayed with asphalt, he said. This is also being replaced.

The collision happened near a crash hot spot on the parkway, revealed in an award-winning Spectator investigative project that found the Red Hill has more than twice as many crashes as the connecting Lincoln Alexander Parkway. Most of the crashes happen in curved parts of the winding and hilly road. The road has been dogged with controversy since it opened in 2007, including speculation that the road is too slippery. Yet friction and asphalt tests have come back inconclusive.

The city had already been planning a $15-million resurfacing project on the parkway next summer after tests showed significant cracking on the top layer of the roadway. The cost of Thursday’s repair work is not yet tallied, but it’s expected to be “significant,” Soldo said. Once that full cost is known the city will work with its risk management section to look at recouping costs from the trucking company. Meanwhile the city has emergency detour routes in place, redirecting the approximately 75,000 vehicles that drive on the Red Hill daily. Most of that traffic is being rerouted along Centennial Parkway, but the closure was expected to cause congestion at both ends of the city. An updated traffic control system allows staff from the traffic control centre to alter traffic lights and monitor traffic volumes from some cameras. Hamilton police are investigating the cause of the crash and say no charges have been laid.

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