Gorski Consulting has been continuing to document the conditions of road surfaces on Ontario’s roads and highways. In recent studies data has been obtained describing the condition of Ontario’s expressways. The results of previous testing have been presented on the Gorski Consulting website on expressways such as Highway 401, 402, Hamilton’s Lincoln Alexander and Red Hill Valley Parkways and Highway Ave in the City of London. New data is now available from testing on Highway 403 between Hamilton and Woodstock, Ontario. These studies begin to layout a clear picture of how Ontario’s expressways compare to each other.
The Gorski Consulting testing involves a test vehicle that is driven over a roadway and the motion of the vehicle, in terms of its lateral and longitudinal rotation, is captured. Most of the expressway data is divided into 30 second segments or distances of approximately 800 metres. Within each 800 metres there are local problems such as pot-holes, depressions, bridge junctions etc. and those are captured in charts that clearly identify the specific location of those deficiencies. Unfortunately, due to the extremely large amount of data, it is not possible to show these local deficiencies in this article. However the charts are available for those who would wish to know more details.
The following charts provide the value of vehicle rotations at the 30 second increments for three of the expressways that were tested: Highways 401, 402 and 403. First are the most recent data from Highway 403 which come in two charts.
Next are the data from Highway 402, which also come in two charts. It is interesting to observe the very large changes in the vehicle motion during the westbound travel on Highway 402 and compare it to some of the other charts such as the Highway 401 data. In particular, Sample 13 of the Westbound Highway 402 shows a very large peak of lateral motion. We will discuss this point later.
The last chart is for Highway 401 between London and Tilbury. Note that the values are low and stable. This is vastly different from the Westbound Highway 402 data shown earlier.
There are numerous matters that can be explored here but let us focus on just one: The very large peak in test vehicle motion in the Westbound Highway 402 data. This peak occurred in the segment of the highway passing through Olde Road. This location, between Strathroy and London, Ontario is denoted by a large orange circle shown in the two Google Maps views below.
The road surface conditions that existed at the time of the testing are shown in the two photos below that were taken on May 3, 2019.
Subsequently, Gorski Consulting visited this location on February 5, 2020 and it was noted that the right lane was repaved, as shown in the two photos below.
So in this case the Ontario Ministry of Transportation was aware of the road safety problem and corrected it. Yet there are many other surface problems that exist on Ontario’s expressways that remain hidden to the public.
When collisions occur police attribute those collisions primarily to driver errors. At times of unusual or extreme environmental conditions some blame will also be attributed to those conditions. Yet road surface problems are never, or very rarely, identified as contributions to collisions. This is not surprising as police have very little training and no objective way of testing whether a road surface is inadequate.
Recently the City of Hamilton has been involved in a judicial inquiry as a result of an engineering report that became “lost” after its testing showed that the Red Hill Valley Parkway contained sections of its surface that were below standards. Many believe that certain employees or politicians may have purposely hidden the report. The judicial inquiry has been set up to find out. This demonstrates how the results of road surface testing can become political and legal footballs preventing objective information from reaching the public. No information what-so-ever is provided by Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation about what surface friction testing they have performed on Ontario’s expressways and what those results are. And no independent agency can collect such data without permission of the Ministry. Thus Gorski Consulting is unable to collect such data.
The alternative is that road surface bumps, depressions, ruptures or other undesirable features can be tracked in the manner shown here in the above charts. These charts do not provide a full indication of what problems may exist because of the lack of the friction testing data. It is also necessary to look more closely at the details of each road segment before local problems become revealed. And this deeper look cannot shown in this article due to the obviously vast number of charts that would need to be shown. But that deeper data is available, along with videotape that shows the specific locations where surface problems exist.
Yet these data are a valuable tool to the public, even though the existence of this tool is essentially unknown. Gorski Consulting is a small firm that cannot publicise the existence of this research except through this medium of providing articles on the Gorski Consulting website. The testing is done independent of any other agency, private or public. Its costs are solely borne by Gorski Consulting. This independence is very important. It means that research that is sometimes manipulated by those paying for it does not exist here. It also means that those who would wish to prevent its release to the public have a more difficult task in doing so.