The state of Utah is asking for "problems" if it pursues a ban on trucks in Provo Canyon, according to the executive vice president of the Utah Motor Transport Association.

Reed Reeve said banning interstate, semitrailer truck traffic from Provo Canyon is "shortsighted" and would not enhance air quality or increase safety.In addition, he thinks the state stands to lose federal funds for reconstruction of Provo Canyon.

"We fully support the (Department of Transportation) position that says there will be no closure of the canyon to heavy trucks," Reeve said. "It is a far-reaching thing. If you close any highway to those that have paid for use of them, you expose yourself to problems."

The Utah Motor Transport Association represents owners and operators of trucks and buses in the state.

Reeve said Attorney General Paul Van Dam "talks out of both sides of his mouth" as far as requirements for federally aided highways.

In an opinion on the legality of banning trucks, Van Dam said Provo Canyon may not be considered part of the national network of highways, which must be kept open to interstate traffic. Also, he said if a ban on trucks is not done in an arbitrary manner and is based on sound safety or environmental reasons, federal funding would not be jeopardized.

But Reeve disagrees.

"When the federal government participates in (rehabilitation) or construction of highways, then it is a federally aided highway," Reeve said. "If Utah were to take the position of closing the highway, then it would have to decide if it wants to have federal funding or not."

For every dollar the state spends on such highways, 90 cents comes from the federal government, Reeve said. In the case of Provo Canyon, that is a considerable sum: reconstruction of the roadway will cost $80-100 million.

"Utah does not have the money," he said.

Regarding the effects of a ban on air quality, Reeve said supporters of the ban "really haven't done their homework . . . They don't really know how much (pollution) is coming from each" source.

And diverting traffic from Provo Canyon to the interstate system would actually increase pollution in Utah and Salt Lake counties, Reeve said. Because of the longer travel distance and greater amount of fuel used, trucks would be in the counties for a longer period of time and cause more pollution.

Reeve also said the decision to ban trucks is up to the Utah Department of Transportation - not the Legislature. That right was solidified in an amendment to section 145 of the Utah Code, passed by the Legislature.

Reeve thinks the state should designate either University Avenue in Provo or 800 North in Orem as a route for traffic to I-15.


(Additional information)

Preliminary results of a truck traffic survey conducted in Provo Canyon March 14-21 are in. The results show that:

- 5,071 trucks (three-quarter-ton pickups or larger) traveled the canyon during the seven-day period the survey was conducted.

- 1,818 semitrailer trucks traveled the canyon, which equates to approximately 260 trucks per day.

- 427 delivery trucks used the canyon during the seven-day period.

The results still need to be "reconciled" to account for factors that may have influenced the count one way or another, according to the Utah Department of Transportation.

UDOT will conduct a second traffic study in the canyon in June or July. And, at the request of Gov. Norm Bangerter, UDOT and the Bureau of Air Quality are conducting studies to assess the effect of a truck ban.

Sam Taylor, chairman of the department's transportation commission, says UDOT's study will be in-depth, looking at increased traffic on I-15, I-215 and U.S. 191 in Duchesne. UDOT will also look at other highways in the state that could be targeted for truck bans on the heels of such a decision in Provo Canyon.

The idea that closing Provo Canyon to truck traffic could create a domino effect on the state's highways worries Taylor. He points out that Attorney General Paul Van Dam's opinion on the legality of a ban warns against such "arbitrary" action.