A solid majority of Utahns believe the Legislature and governor should have settled legal disputes over the Legacy Parkway. But they remain largely split over some of the negotiated details, like a 55 mph speed limit and no truck traffic.
According to a Dan Jones & Associates poll conducted for the Deseret Morning News, 69 percent of those polled say state officials definitely or probably should have settled the dispute with conservationists who successfully challenged the highway project in federal court.
Sixty-three percent of those polled said the Legacy Parkway should definitely or probably be built, despite a $680 million price tag some $200 million more than originally budgeted.
Lawmakers met in special session Wednesday to approve a settlement in the 2001 lawsuit filed by conservationists that halted construction of the 14-mile, limited-access highway from Farmington to Salt Lake City.
Utahns are not as keen on the specifics of the deal, although more were supportive of the provisions than were opposed. Forty-eight percent approved of the provision banning truck traffic, whereas 43 percent were opposed, the poll found.
And 51 percent approved of the 55 mph speed limit, with 44 percent opposed.
There was overwhelming support for the ban on billboards, with 68 percent saying billboards definitely or probably should be banned from the parkway corridor. Only 24 percent probably or definitely disapproved, according to the poll.
The legislative action breaks a long-standing logjam that has stalled the Legacy Parkway for years. The road originally was envisioned as the first leg of a planned 120-mile Legacy Highway, stretching from Willard to Nephi, but those larger plans have been scrapped. Despite the pared-down version of the highway, Davis County officials and commuters let out a collective cheer after the settlement was finalized.
"The thought of starting construction without litigation this spring and seeing this road completed is excitingly emotional," Rep. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said after the legislative session.
Davis County residents remain overwhelmingly supportive of the Legacy Parkway, and most support the settlement to get construction started.
Some 91 percent polled said the highway should be built despite the higher price tag; only 4 percent were opposed. And 63 percent said the settlement definitely or probably should have been reached (28 percent were opposed).
But Davis County commuters are not enthusiastic about the deal's restrictions.
Fifty-one percent of Davis residents were opposed to the ban on truck traffic; 42 percent supported it. And 63 percent were opposed to the 55 mph speed limit; 32 percent supported it.
When it comes to billboards, though, Davis County residents are adamant. Sixty-eight percent favor the billboard ban, whereas only 14 percent opposed it.
By approving the settlement agreement, the state is now on track to begin construction of the Legacy Parkway next spring.
The Utah Department of Transportation will need to apply for federal permits and then go back to court to ask that the injunction on the road be lifted. The injunction was imposed in 2002 after a successful lawsuit by the Sierra Club, Utahns for Better Transportation and Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.
The Legislature overwhelmingly approved the settlement, despite an advertising blitz by settlement opponents chagrined over the precedence of allowing environmental groups to dictate transportation policy.
The survey was conducted Nov. 10 to 12 and included interviews with 400 Utahns statewide. It has a margin of error of 5 percent.Dan Jones & Associates has conducted research for Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., a proponent of the settlement; Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who had sought federal legislation to allow Legacy to move ahead; and the Utah Transit Authority, which is involved in Davis County transit projects that will receive money as a result of the Legacy settlement.
Contributing: Nicole Warburton