The last entry in the West Davis portion of the Legacy Highway sweepstakes pulled ahead for a tentative victory Tuesday.

Following a year of public hearings, feasibility studies and contentious debate, the Utah Department of Transportation decided to recommend "alignment C" for the future highway - the route preferred by south Davis communities. The route is the first portion of the Legacy Highway, which UDOT plans to eventually run between Nephi and Brigham City.UDOT presented its proposal to the Utah Transportation Commission on Tuesday. UDOT officials expected the commission to approve its recommendation.

The route, as proposed by UDOT, will begin at I-215 and 2100 North in Salt Lake City and extend north, parallel to Redwood Road. This includes the "C-2 alternative," which Woods Cross and North Salt Lake proposed to avoid cutting off access to businesses in their cities.

The road will shift to a northeasterly route at 500 South and Redwood Road in Woods Cross, and cross the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad north of Centerville's Parrish Lane, to accommodate Centerville's concerns about access. From there, the Legacy/West Davis Highway will parallel the Union Pacific Railroad and I-15, just west of power lines and the railroad tracks. This portion of the highway will end at the I-15 and U.S. 89 interchange in Farmington.

Although all of the interchanges along the West Davis Highway will be modified to accommodate the road, two new interchanges also will be constructed: at 500 South in Woods Cross and Parrish Lane in Centerville.

UDOT chose the route based on the majority of public comments, which favored Alternative C, as well the backing of most cities in the southern part of Davis County. The route was initially designed by the cities themselves, and proposed to UDOT because the other two proposal ran farther east, effectively slicing through many of the cities.

"Most people would like it moved out of the developed land," said Frank Ularich of HDR Engineering, which UDOT hired as consultant for the project.

According to UDOT estimates, alignment C would require removal of about a third as many businesses and residences as the other proposed alignments. It also would effect fewer farms.

Not everyone will rejoice about the selection. Many environmental groups have voiced concern about the wetlands that would be affected. UDOT estimates say alignment C would affect 160 acres, as opposed to 115 acres with the "A" alternative.

This wetland impact also has raised concern with the Army Corps of Engineers, which have opposed any damage to the wetlands. But Ularich said that until a route is proposed and studies completed the Corps could not make a final decision.

"Without a preferred route, there's no way we can make a proposal," Ularich said. "We have to give them a chance to give us a yes or no decision."

Davis County cities, which generally favored the plan, feel the decision is a positive step forward. All sides concede that changes will continually be made and hope that their specific concerns will be addressed.

"We support the West Davis Highway," Bountiful Mayor John Cushing said. "We hope we can continue to work with them and make this a win-win situation for everyone."

The recommendation by UDOT is only one of many steps before the highway will begin construction. This summer, UDOT will release the environmental impact statement for the alignment.