SMART Coalition files suit over MTO plans

The Save Money and Reduce Traffic (SMART) Coalition filed a suit against the Ontario government on Nov. 3, claiming the proposed Highway 424 between Brantford and Cambridge contradicts the province’s own growth plan.

That News generated a positive reaction recently from at least one Puslinch councillor.

“I think it’s an interesting proposal from the SMART Coalition,” Susan Fielding said at a meeting on Nov. 18.

She added she is “quite de­lighted” a citizen group has de­cided to do something about the proposed transportation cor­ridor, which could run dir­ectly through Puslinch Town­ship.

The coalition feels new highways in rural Ontario will promote urban growth in plac­es where rural lands and communities are supposed to be protected.

“The growth plan is supposed to provide better connections between priority communities, not better connections between provincial highways,” coalition lawyer Rodney Nor­they told the Brantford Expos­i­tor.

The group is asking divisional court to dismiss the Ministry of Transportation’s terms of reference and force it  to develop a plan in line with the growth plan.

According to a coalition press release, “The province alleges its work is about better connecting Brantford and Cam­bridge, but these communities already have a highway connecting them – Highway 24.”

The coalition has been working since 2007 against a connector highway between Highways 401 and 403. In fact, it was a delegation about a year ago from Stu Lang, a coalition representative, that prompted Puslinch council to pass a resolution opposing the MTO’s draft terms of reference.

“There is no prov­en need for an additional 403 to 401 link,” Lang said. He explained the terms of reference violate the province’s growth plan, and said any new highway:

–  will likely be located in an area that could become part of the expanded Greenbelt;

– would have a significant impact on the Paris-Galt mor­aine, provincially significant wetlands and other local sensitive environmental features;

– will isolate a number of Puslinch residents because it will split the township in two;

– tries to circumvent the Min­istry of Infrastructure through the environmental as­sessment process to avoid a “sub-area assessment” to prove the need for the highway; and

– ignores the nearby High­way 6  project, which will pro­vide the linkage the MTO de­sires.

Government officials have claimed all along they have made no decision on whether a new highway will be built, or on the preferred route.

But Puslinch officials seem­ed side with Lang, who refused to believe such an assertion.

“They’re already predisposed as to where they want to put [it]. I suspect they’ve al­ready got their decision made,” he told council last year, noting the east link through Puslinch will likely be the chosen route.

Brant MPP Dave Levac told the Brantford Expositor the existing Highway 24 is “an extremely deadly highway,” and begged the SMART Coalition to  “reconsider their position that this government does not know what it’s doing.”