If the city has its way, interstate truckers won't be traveling through Provo Canyon next year.
The City Council passed such a resolution Tuesday night. It is just the beginning of what local leaders hope becomes a joining of governmental entities to prohibit interstate truck traffic through the canyon."Interstate truck traffic" would be trucks coming from outside the state and passing through the state without any scheduled delivery points in Utah.
The city seeks the prohibition as a means of maintaining and promoting health, welfare and safety for citizens.
"Our big concern is safety, but the other concern is the carbon monoxide problem on University Avenue," Mayor Joe Jenkins said. "The trucks don't cause carbon monoxide, but they slow down traffic."
Provo has struggled to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency's air-quality standards. Limiting truck traffic may be another solution, Jenkins said.
He said officials from Orem and Wasatch and Utah counties have expressed an interest in passing the same type of resolution.
Once those entities have, the resolution will go to Gov. Norm Bangerter, state lawmakers and the Utah Department of Transportation for their backing.
Then the resolution would go to the federal transportation officials.
To limit truck traffic on a federal highway, several issues are necessary, Jenkins said. There must be an alternate route, there must be safety or environmental concerns and all political entities have to be in agreement.
The mayor said he always favored restricting interstate truck traffic but wanted to make sure the truck issue didn't stop road construction in the canyon. "It looks like it (the road work) will be done now, and so we thought this was the time to bring the truck issue forward.
"It's a federal issue, an uphill battle, but we've got to start somewhere," he said. "Everyone tells us that the feds will never buy the idea, but how will we know if we don't give them an opportunity to make the decision?"
Louis MacDonald, Federal Highway Administration regional administrator, said restricting interstate truck traffic could mean less federal money for road maintenance and construction.
"Is it appropriate to allocate transportation dollars if traffic is restricted?" he asked. "The volumes and types of traffic are all considerations used to establish priorities for the use of funds that go into pavement and design standards.
"Our position is that the state of Utah has to make a reasonable judgment. We look to see if it's reasonable and if we will provide funding and approve the design. The ball is in the hands of Utah."
Wayne Winters, vice chairman of the Utah State Transportation Commission, said: "Regardless of what action we might take, the federal highway administration has advised us not to restrict Provo Canyon's use. They will not allow us to take truck traffic off. We have not gone beyond that."
Overweight and oversize trucks were restricted about a year ago, he said, but legal loads, widths and lengths still are allowed.
I-80 in Parleys Canyon is the route Jenkins says was built specifically as the truck route through Utah to the California coast. It was to be designed for that, even though truckers complain that the grades are too steep on both sides of the summit.
But MacDonald said: "I don't think it's an accurate argument that I-80 was built to handle truck traffic. Provo Canyon is a highway facility and is on the primary canyon system. No highway is built for a specific purpose."
MacDonald said, "I certainly recognize their concerns and such. Many cities would like to restrict highways to certain types of traffic, but truckers pay a highway users fee and have a right to use highway facilities."
He said the highway system is a big part of the nation's commerce and it would be impossible to draw the line on usage. "What is fair to one is not to the other."
Reed L. Reeve, executive vice president of the Utah Motor Transport Association, agreed. Truckers' taxes have paid for half of the highway, he said. "They have as much right as anyone else because they pay for others to use the highways."