There exists no shortage of so-called facts and opinions regarding the Legacy Parkway agreement. While we have no qualms with those who oppose the settlement, we hope there is good intent to represent the facts accurately.
Many of our constituents have expressed specific concerns we wish to address. Unfortunately, much of their information is a result of listening to recent radio ads and prominent personalities, who may not have all their facts straight. The following is a summary of their statements and our response:
"The parkway will be constructed with three-foot, unsafe shoulders." This is false. Nowhere within the agreement can you find this provision. The radio ad by USET making this claim refutes the settlement based on sticking with "principle." It is misleading rhetoric at best and a ploy to create anxiety. In fact, it states in 5B(2)(c) of the agreement: "UDOT retains authority to take steps as necessary and appropriate to assure safety on this and other roadways of the State." Safety will not be compromised in the design of this road, especially not on the shoulders.
"This agreement sets precedence for future lawsuits." We disagree. This agreement will not represent a crossroad in time for precedence.The federal government has already paved a freeway of precedence for environmental groups (and equipped their vehicles with lights and sirens) within the current NEPA process and within the Clean Water Act. Until we change federal statute the courts will continue to give ear to these groups based on the laws of the land. The sad reality is we will be faced with future lawsuits with or without this settlement unless something changes at the federal level.
"We are not getting the road we want." The road is being built on Alignment E exactly where we want it. The road is being designed to carry traffic at freeway speeds as per UDOT standards. Materials used will accommodate all truck traffic. In just over 10 years after the completion of the parkway, all restrictions go away. We will have a road that facilitates traffic at freeway speeds and is capable of carrying all the truck traffic you can shake a stick at.
"This doesn't help commerce." In what world? If I-15 were to shut down tomorrow in south Davis County, where would you send the commercial truck traffic? The current answer is nowhere. Within the settlement agreement UDOT and UHP have sole discretion to determine what constitutes an emergency and can move truck traffic onto Legacy, a viable alternate route, allowing commerce to continue. Amazingly enough, if we were adding HOV lanes to I-15 in the same corridor it would be hailed as a good thing, yet trucks would not be allowed on the HOV lanes. In fact, you can't even legally pull a trailer behind your SUV in HOV lanes. Let's give a true reflection of exactly how much traffic the truck restriction will impact: As a percent of freeway traffic around 4 percent of all vehicles (trucks with five or more axles or more than 80,000 pounds) will be restricted on this parkway until 2020. By moving 30 percent of the traffic flow from I-15 to Legacy, however, commerce will have much more road capacity.
"A 55 mph road does me no good." When commuting to the capital city in stop-and-go traffic, our speeds range between 0 and 25 mph. We would give blood to go 55 miles per hour.There is clearly a lot of pent-up frustration over this drawn-out battle. No one understands these emotions more than we do. However, there are some hard realities that cannot be overlooked. The state is already facing a conservative $16.5 billion shortfall in funding road infrastructure through the year 2030. Once this project becomes too expensive, you hand the environmental groups everything they want no road at all. We have far too many needs throughout the state and we simply don't have the resources to waste. The delays have already cost the taxpayers over $200 million. One of the clear principles or responsibilities we face is being accountable with the taxpayer's money. It is time to move on and get Legacy built. The settlement is good for commerce. It is good for the taxpayer. It is good for Utah.
Sen. Sheldon L. Killpack is from District 21 and Rep. J. Stuart Adams is from District 16.