December 09, 2019

Commentary: More study needed before state makes changes on Legacy Parkway

By Angie Keeton, Roger Borgenicht, Ann Floor, Lynn de Freitas and Heather Dove | Special to The Tribune

We believe that a rigorous study is essential to evaluate the current need and to assess and disclose the impacts if large trucks and higher speeds are introduced on Legacy Parkway in Davis County. Such a study is critical to ensure that the needs and interests of the public are considered fully.

We believe that any changes to the parkway, which could take place after Jan. 1, should follow the legal requirements stated in the Record of Decision (ROD) issued Jan. 9, 2006, by the Federal Highway Administration, which is the final word on the legal status of the project. It states:

“Noise-reducing pavement and constructed parkway amenities would be retained beyond 2020, but UDOT could consider the need to raise the posted speed limit and allow large trucks at that time. UDOT’s decision to continue these restrictions beyond 2020 will depend on the pace of development and the rate of growth in travel demand.”

The language in the ROD is clear. Rather than a requirement to allow large trucks (five axles or more) and raise the speed limit, it states that UDOT “could consider the need” to do so. The word “could” implies a choice, not a mandate. It’s just one option.

Thus, under basic principles of administrative law, we believe the agency is required to engage in a reasoned analysis, supported by a study of all relevant impacts, with public notice and an opportunity for public comment. We urge UDOT to complete this study before any action is taken to change the current status of the Parkway.

Jan. 1 is nothing more than the initial date at which time UDOT could consider changes to truck and speed limits. There is no urgent need to make a decision effective that date, particularly absent the information and analysis necessary to make a sound decision.

Between November, 2017, and March, 2019, the city councils in North Salt Lake, Woods Cross, West Bountiful, Centerville and Farmington considered the ramifications to their communities of introducing large trucks on the parkway and each of those councils passed resolutions with unanimous support to continue the truck restriction on Legacy.

We support their efforts to keep the truck ban in place, and we have some additional concerns:

In 2005, the Utah Legislature’s stated purpose for limiting large trucks on the parkway was to protect the unique environmental conditions of the Legacy Nature Preserve west of the road. Have those “unique” conditions changed?

Those conditions have not changed over the 12 years the parkway has been in operation. In recognizing the ecologically unique landscape and amenity in Great Salt Lake, and to mitigate impacts to wetlands and wildlife from the construction of the parkway, the State of Utah and UDOT established in perpetuity, the 2,100 acre Legacy Nature Preserve. Senate Bill 2001 (November 9, 2005) states “The Legislature finds and declares that the limitation of trucks being operated on the Legacy Parkway under Subsection (3) is due to the unique location of the Legacy Parkway, which is adjacent to the Legacy Nature Preserve.”

If the preserve was valued by the Utah Legislature as worth protecting in 2005, why would it not be worth protecting in 2020?